Extended Pitch Reel (10 min.)
In a world where cheerleaders tend to be the most popular and athletic, CHEER tells the story of a unique team with developmental disabilities called the Sparks, who strive for acceptance on the intense Jersey competition cheer circuit while dealing with the realities of growing up with autism, Down syndrome and other special challenges. Based in working-class Lyndhurst, NJ and infused with the grit and iconic imagery of the Garden State, the film unfolds over three years as the Sparks grow from a small group in hand-me-down uniforms that had difficulty socializing to a tight-knit team of 25, taking center stage at the Nationals competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As we get to know each of the main characters featured in the film and see the difficulties they face each day, we are reminded of the resiliency of the human spirit and led to a deeper appreciation of what it means to push ourselves to the limit. It’s a story about rejection and acceptance, dreams and disappointments - opening hearts and minds to a new way of thinking. It doesn’t matter what your ability is, as long as you have the spirit to cheer.
Sparks founder Debbie Wertalik, whose own grandson has autism, fights to show the world what these kids have to offer. Debbie is driven by the belief that, "our children are capable of so much, so they can’t be just thrown away and forgotten. Sparks is right out there in your face." Fearlessly engaging in a sport that is usually reserved for the most popular and athletic, the team makes it to a Nationals competition on the Jersey Shore and we learn what the future may hold for each of our characters beyond their experience with The Sparks. As we watch them perform in front of an audience of hundreds, the smallest success feels momentous. Their joy is infectious, their bravery - inspirational. Ultimately CHEER shows us that when the rest of the world opens their minds and hearts, kids like the Sparks are capable of greatness. In Debbie’s words, "maybe they’re somebody’s hero."