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New movie 'Peanut Butter Falcon' raises awareness of down syndrome community

For Shaina Robb and her dad, it's a rare chance to see someone like her chasing their dream.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — At Gigi's Playhouse in Saint Louis Park, they tell people they can do anything they set your mind to.

Shaina Robb dares to dream a lot of things, today it’s cooking.

"I think I should have my own cooking show one day," Robb laughs.

The center is one of 46 in the nation that offer a safe place for people with down syndrome, where they can learn, play and be themselves.

“I have a lot of friends here,” Robb says.

It’s safe place where everyone is accepted and appreciated.

"There's a lot of insight people with down syndrome can bring to all of us," executive director Tim Hawley says.

Hawley and his staff get to see their unique gifts and talents every day and now thanks to a new Hollywood movie, he says soon the rest of the world will see it too.

“I’m ecstatic about this movie,” Hawley says. “It’s so real and genuine. It’s treated in a very natural and real manner.”

The Peanut Butter Falcon, named after the main character's wrestling alter-ego, tells the story of a man with down syndrome who runs away from his nursing home to pursue a career in wrestling.

On the road, and on the run, he meets a fisherman, portrayed by Shia LaBeouf, and the two of them become fast friends.

For Shaina and her dad, it's a rare chance to see someone like her chasing their dream.

"It's about encouraging others," Robb says.

Robb’s father Jerry nods in agreement.

"The young man in that movie had to have come up with the name, the Peanut Butter Falcon. It’s exactly the kind of name Shaina would have come up with,” he laughs.

They both plan to see the movie when it comes out this Friday.

Hawley is also excited to see it and says he can’t wait for others at the center to see it too.

“I hope it will open people’s eyes when they see it that when they see people with down syndrome, they look at them through a positive lens versus maybe a lens of apprehension,” Hawley says.

As inspiring as the movie is, the story of how it got made is even more inspiring than the movie itself.

The film’s two writers/directors got the idea several years ago while volunteering at a camp for kid’s with disabilities.

The film’s main actor Zack Gottsagen was one of them.

He told the two filmmakers about his dream of becoming a famous actor.

The writers had to tell him the bad news, that very few Hollywood writers write parts for people with down syndrome.

Zack was crushed, but eventually he came up with an idea, if Hollywood wouldn’t give him an opportunity to act, why not get his two new friends to create an opportunity for him?

The two writers started working on a script.

Years later they sent their script around Hollywood and eventually drew the attention of several big-name actors.

Besides LaBeouf, the film also stars Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, Bruce Dern and Jon Bernthal.

The movie is currently gaining momentum after getting a rating of 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Several other film critics have also written favorable reviews.

Shaina is hoping the movie will teach people that with the right encouragement, people with down syndrome can do anything they set their minds to.

"If you put your heart and soul into something, you can do anything you want. I believe that, that everyone can be included, everyone’s encouraged.”

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