Actress with Down syndrome storms the big screen

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. Today is an appropriate day to share Libby's story.

Libby Hunsdale is a young actress on whom to keep an eye.

The young women with Down syndrome recently received the Youth Courage Award at the Attitude Awards, to celebrate the achievements of a young person with a disability whose courage and determination will remind Kiwis of the power of the human spirit, and the quest of young people with disabilities to lead full lives.  

“We know Libby embodies the spirit of this award. Her courage has been shown in her overcoming personal loss and throwing herself into auditioning for, and successfully gaining, the role of Poppy,” producer Robin Laing said before the awards. 

Poppy is the story of a young woman with Down syndrome who refuses to be defined by her disability and decides to take control of her own life.

Libby, a young woman with Down Syndrome, is pictured with her co-star Sebastian

Libby, a young woman with Down Syndrome is pictured with her co-star Sebastian

Written and directed by Linda Niccol, Poppy is produced by Robin Laing and Alex Cole-Baker.  

Libby was picked for the title role of Poppy after extensive casting by director Niccol.

Niccol said that the 19-year-old was “a real find”.  

“She embodies the spirit of Poppy. She is a true performer.”

Finding the right actress for the role was challenging because the actor had to be able to drive a car.

Poppy is a New Zealand film about a young woman with Down syndrome who wants to become a motor mechanic, starting with the apprenticeship that was promised her by her late father.  But Dave, her super-protective brother, who has reluctantly taken over the family garage is far from encouraging.

It is not until she teams up with a former school friend who needs his car fixed in time enter the local burn-out competition that her plans progress.

On the film set, Libby was supported by Sydney-based New Zealander Ari Boyland and another newcomer, Sebastian Hunter.

Producer Laing said that it had been a steep learning curve for Libby who had previously acted in school productions. “But she has taken on the challenge with great courage and enthusiasm.”

In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, Libby said that she could relate to Poppy because she is ambitious and wants a career. “And I do too.”

 “Poppy doesn't care about what people think of her and the fact she has Down syndrome. I really relate to Poppy. We could be sisters."

The film was filmed on the Kapiti Coast but the original release date has been pushed out until later this year.

The production received funding from the Film Commission’s 125 Fund, in commemoration of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, from TVNZ which will screen the film on prime-time television, as well as several other philanthropic supporters.

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