The Key Of G

An award-winning doc about disability, caregiving and interdependence.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
59 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL


A young man with multiple disabilities leaves his mother's home to share an apartment with his caregivers.

Featured review

Innovative... an artistic close-up of how family and friends help launch a young man with complex disabilities into his adult life.
Kathy Martinez
Executive Director, World Institute on Disability


The Key of G is an award-winning documentary about disability, caregiving and interdependence. The film follows Gannet, a charismatic 22-year-old with physical and developmental disabilities, as he leaves his mother's home to share an apartment with a close-knit group of artists and musicians who support him, not only as paid caregivers, but also as friends. Together they create a uniquely successful model of supported living, and a compelling alternative to institutionalized care.

Recommended by educators as an excellent teaching tool for courses in:

• Disability Studies

• Occupational Therapy

• Physical Therapy

• Special Education

• Medical Studies (especially Genetics & Neurology)

• Social Work

• Speech Pathology

• Audiology

• Sociology

• Psychology


Smart, poignant, candid... It's a really extraordinary film.
Graham Leggat
Executive Director, San Francisco Film Society
The Key of G offers families and the public a glimpse of what can be possible for a young adult with severe cognitive disability living in the community. We see Gannet interact with young roommate/caregivers who are also artists and musicians - a lovely contrast to dread images of institutions or burdened families.
Marsha Saxton
PhD Professor of Disability Studies, University of California, Berkeley
A well-made documentary with lovely comic book-style intertitles between segments. Recommended."*** (out of 4)
A. Jacobson - Video Librarian
A. Jacobson - Video Librarian
... a real-life look at supported living, an option for anyone with a developmental disability, regardless of their level of functioning. The film exemplifies the talents and empathy of those gifted direct care workers who become part of our extended families.
Trudy Marsh Holmes Parent
Executive Director, Journey of Choice - A Parent Directed Supported Living Agency
The Key of G sleeve promises a story of how "G and his friends strive to build a meaningful life together." But the reality is far more complex. G is Gannet, a young man with multiple serious disabilities. His friends are caregivers, paid through social service programs to make it possible for G to live independently. And the meaningful life is built and defined moment by moment. The film follows Gannet's transition from his mother's home to an apartment and chronicles his typical days, emphasizing the small victories rather than overall prognoses or exposition. The result is a brief but honest glimpse into the lives of G and his caregivers. Because of its neutral approach, The Key of G would likely be illuminating for families of people transitioning to independent living and for those thinking of becoming caregivers. Recommended for both social service education and public libraries.
Courtney Deines-Jones
Grimalkin Group, LLC, Silver Spring, MD Library Journal

Awards and Screenings

Winner of the Golden Gate Award for Best Bay Area Documentary, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2007
Broadcast nationally on PBS, 2007

Director Commentary

“One of the best parts of the job is watching people start understanding that he’s a full person — just a person who goes about it all differently.”

- Donal Mosher, one of Gannet’s caregivers

It’s not the kind of day job you expect an artist to have. Recent art school graduates I knew worked in cafés, painted houses, or were assistants to more established artists. So, when I first noticed Colter—who I knew from art school—walking around with a young disabled man named Gannet, I assumed they were brothers. Soon, another artist I knew, Donal Mosher, started showing up around the neighborhood with G (as they often call him), and I began to wonder what exactly was going on. Finally I met G, and discovered that G’s mother had hired both Colter and Donal as daytime caregivers.

I had no idea how to relate to G the first few times I met him. He didn’t make eye contact, he drooled, and didn’t speak. I couldn’t figure out how much of a consciousness was in there: if he could even understand me when I talked to him. Should I talk to him? Was it OK to ask questions about him in his presence? I felt very awkward and I was in awe of the people who obviously knew how to relate to him. Then I saw him use his “communication book” for the first time and I was stunned. There was a person in there: a full person with ideas and desires and a strong will. I still didn’t quite know how to deal with him, but I was fascinated. My close friend Amanda also began working with G and he became a regular fixture in my circle of friends.

I watched as G became a sort of glue between the caregivers, how his demands and his way of being in the world began to color their art and alter their lives. G began showing up with them at music events and art openings. His request (via the communication book) for a “picnic in the park with friends” could scare up a half-dozen friends on an hour’s notice. I decided I wanted to do a short, experimental piece about G and his group of friends, and I started trailing them with my camera. Soon I met Amy, G’s mother, and she told me that plans were in the works for G to move out of her house and into his own apartment. I found my “short experimental piece” transforming into something larger and more narrative as G’s story evolved.

As time went on, I watched as G and his group of supporters tackled not only his move, but also an eye surgery and other obstacles. I found that I couldn’t decide which was more compelling—G’s story as he became the adult he is now, or the caregivers’ and Amy’s, as they learned from him and grew themselves.

Originally I had been drawn in by the question of G’s subjectivity. What was it like to BE Gannet? But because Gannet couldn’t speak, I found I ended up depending on the stories of the people close to him to describe his world. In the film, we end up seeing G through the dramatic effect that he has on others and through the life they build together. Rather than the story you might expect about one young man’s move toward independence, THE KEY OF G becomes a story about interdependence, a movie about how G’s world is made, and how he makes it with others.

Robert Arnold

Director, THE KEY OF G

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning
  • DVD Extras

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Resources for Educators

File Downloads

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