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CoorDown's Touching Film Celebrates People with Down Syndrome's Right to Love
Production Company
Milan, Italy
To celebrate Down Syndrome Day, CoorDown and Indiana Productions film shares the story of Kenya Koene and Liam de Waele

To celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (21st March 2022) CoorDown launches their global awareness campaign ‘JUST THE TWO OF US’, to promote the right of people with Down Syndrome to experience romantic and sexual relationships and receive correct and accessible information to enjoy a full and healthy sexual freedom.

Through a crescendo of scenes bordering on the absurd, the campaign video makes use of hyperbole to show how families, especially when it comes to romantic relationships, can become a cumbersome presence in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Amid smiles and emotions that are too openly ‘shared’, the message of the starring couple leaves no doubt: ‘Love needs space’. It is a difficult balance for parents and carers to find, balancing protectiveness with being supportive and wanting their loved ones to live life to the fullest. The video unfolds to the tune of a cover of the song ‘Just The Two Of Us’ by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers, which serves as soundtrack to the story and as final message.

Everyone has a right to develop romantic relationships and to fully enjoy their sexuality, yet for people with intellectual disabilities this is often still a taboo. Many stereotypes surrounding disability have been shattered in the last decades, but there is one theme that still causes embarrassment and resistance: sexuality. It is a cultural change that must be tackled and that involves families, carers and support workers first and next institutions and society at large. People with Down syndrome are often seen as 'eternal children', and as such are protected or kept away from anything that has to do with adulthood, including sexuality. But people with Down syndrome have the same needs as anybody else and have the same right to live an independent love and sexual life and to receive clear and accessible information.

Relationships and sex education may enable people with intellectual disabilities to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling emotional life and is key to help them understand their rights, learn about their bodies and about the concepts of ‘consent’ and ‘safe sex’, and protect them from potential abuse.

In support of the campaign, we created the website , to provide information and resources on the topic of sexuality of people with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. The site features a Q&A section on sexuality, relationships, and self-discovery to answer frequently asked questions from people with Down syndrome, their families, carers and support workers. Once again, CoorDown gives a voice to people with Down syndrome through interviews and stories published on the website and on social media channels. An opportunity for teens and adults to express their view and point us in the right and desired direction. 

The 'Just the Two of Us' campaign – available on CoorDown’s YouTube channel through the following marks CoorDown’s tenth collaboration with Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese, at present creative and executive directors of the New York-based agency SMALL. The film 'Just The Two of Us', directed by Martin Romanella and Augusto Gimenez Zapiola, with cinematography by Marcello Dapporto, is produced by Indiana Production. The cover of the song written by Ralph Macdonald, William Salter and Bill Withers and a big hit when performed by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers, bears the same name and was arranged by Stabbiolo Music. 

The stars of the campaign are Kenya Koene and Liam de Waele, two young Dutch adults age 20 and 21, who met on the set of a web series, and they are also a real-life couple. They both work in a lunchroom. She does fitness and is an excellent dancer and has won as many as four national titles, he is an award winning vlogger, plays basketball, does fitness, goes skiing and snorkelling. Both of them have already had several experiences as models and actors.

Control, one of the most famous brands within sexual wellbeing in the European market, is sponsor of the initiative and will support the launch of this campaign with an information activity dedicated to this subject on its social channels, through the narration of young women and men with Down syndrome, who tell their stories and experiences as a couple.

This year’s global campaign was again supported by the Down's Syndrome Association (UK) and Down Syndrome Australia, partners of CoorDown since 2015, with the patronage of DSi - Down Syndrome International and Fondazione Cariplo.

The campaign’s official hashtags are #LoveNeedsSpace #JustTheTwoOfUs #WorldDownSyndromeDay #WDSD22.

Antonella Falugiani, president of CoorDown ODV: “Undoubtedly sexuality is a thorny issue, shrouded in taboos that have deep cultural roots, but it is also a topic that we, as representatives of people with Down syndrome, wanted to address because it is not only the recognition of a right, but also the recognition of a need. There are several barriers, which may be more or less manifest, that hinder the sexual and emotional development of people with intellectual disabilities, and thus limit their psychophysical wellbeing, and it is now high time we try and tear them down. People with Down Syndrome are neither “asexual angels”, nor are they “demons” who cannot control their urges. By staging an ironic paradox, the movie "Just The Two of Us” will allow us to start the ball rolling and address a very delicate topic, to then outline a constructive guided pathway to sexuality that can give young adults with Down syndrome adequate tools and help both families, carers and support workers”. 

Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese, executive creative directors, SMALL New York: “Ten years have gone by since we created our first campaign for CoorDown and this year again it has been a great privilege to work with the association, to help people with Down syndrome gain more rights. With this campaign we are addressing a theme that most likely never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined touching on ten years ago. We think this is a great sign, because clearly over the years we have been able to push the boundaries of topics that can be broached, opening up more and more opportunities for people with Down syndrome. Although this is the tenth year, we hope it is but the start of a wonderful journey”.  

Maurizio Bossi, business unit director, Control: “We were pleased to accept CoorDown's invitation to support this important awareness campaign. The Control brand has always promoted an idea of inclusive sexuality, free of any judgment or prejudice, pretense or provocation. We wish to contribute to projects that support relationships and sexuality education, based on self-respect and respect for others, experienced as shared pleasure and free consent between two individuals. CoorDown's campaign sends an important message and addresses issues such as respect, emotions, and love: values through which you can live your sexuality to the fullest”.

Karim Bartoletti, partner/MD/executive producer, Indiana Production: “It is true that, as the saying says, “you should not change the team that wins” - and the team that did the 'Hiring Chain' certainly won a lot  - but it is also true that that for CoorDown and for SMALL that “the winning project should not be copied”. This is the “strategic intelligence” on which CoorDown with Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese from SMALL has based the creation of all the projects conceived for World Down Syndrome Day: different projects every year, with brand new insights, with original creativities, with different production concepts, and brought to life with specific content…all different one from the other and all “correct” for their specific fruition. 

For the 'Just The Two Of Us' project, this year, Indiana brought on board the talent of two directors of the calibre of Augusto Zapiola and Martin Romanella. The two Argentinian directors fell in love with this year’s creativity and worked together on this project. We are very proud of this content which brings CoorDown to explore the world of sexuality, after having dealt, in previous campaigns, with important themes such as discrimination, parental fear, education and employment”. 

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is an international event – set up by Down Syndrome International and officially acknowledged also by a UN resolution — which aims to raise awareness and a better knowledge of the Down Syndrome, create a new culture of diversity, and champion the respect and inclusion in society of all people with Down syndrome.  The date of 21/3 is not accidental: Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is characterised by the presence of an extra chromosome – three instead of two – in the chromosome pair no. 21 inside the cells. The theme of this year’s world day is 'Inclusion means…' and aims to share concrete examples of inclusion to put pressure on national and international institutions to pursue the full inclusion of people with Down syndrome in society.  

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