An Emmy award-winning filmmaker from Long Island City will have his latest documentary premiere on PBS this week.
Jason DaSilva’s “Predicting My MS” explores the science behind his battle with multiple sclerosis and looks back reflectively, speaking with medical experts and family members to explore the unlikely chain of circumstances that may have led to his condition.
The documentary will air on NOVA on Wednesday, Feb. 23, on Channel 13 beginning at 9 p.m. as part of a two-hour special focused on individuals whose experience with disability propelled them to investigate to help improve the quality of life for others who face similar challenges.
In 2005, DaSilva was a 26-year-old filmmaker when he began having trouble walking. He was diagnosed with a rare subtype of primary progressive multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the protective coverings of nerve cells in his brain and spine, interfering with his nervous system’s ability to transmit signals. MS has no known cure and inflicts a host of progressively debilitating symptoms.
After spending much of the COVID-19 pandemic staring at the East River waterfront and Manhattan skyline from his Long Island City home, with his only activity being a daily wheelchair ride through Hunters Point South Park, DaSilva decided to get back to work and document the challenges that he faced across the last seven years in the Emmy Award-winning “When I Walk.”
In the follow-up documentary “Predicting My MS,” DaSilva refuses to think of his situation as “tragic,” as a diagnosis of MS is often labeled.
“It was great to work on ‘Predicting My MS’ since I got the chance to interview different doctors and researchers about all the potential risk factors that could lead to someone contracting MS,” DaSilva said. “I also got to share with the world some of my reflections about my diagnosis and the work I do to support people with disabilities.”
In 2019, DaSilva founded AXS Lab, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities, and created AXS Map, a digital tool that enables users to review and rate the accessibility of venues on the web and mobile phones.
DaSilva enlisted community leader Brent O’Leary to organize the first AXS Mapathon event in which volunteers fanned out across western Queens and visited stores, restaurants and bars to see if they were accessible for people with disabilities and then upload the information to the website.
“Jason is an inspiration to all,” O’Leary told QNS. “He will never let his limitations stop him from helping others and living his life to the fullest, I am very proud to have been part of his work in mapping neighborhoods here in Queens in terms of accessibility”
In “Predicting My MS,” DaSilva asked one of his doctors if his time as a disaster relief counselor at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11th attacks at the World Trade Center led to his condition. It likely did not, the doctor told him.
He also learned that the condition never manifested in anyone in his family tree, which originated in Goa, South India. DaSilva does learn, much to his surprise, that his family has German and Russian heritage.
“This piece is a culmination of self-reflection, and an inquiry into what risk factors could have led to my MS diagnosis,” DaSilva said. “I hope that my journey of discovery will help other people come to the understanding I did, that MS is caused by many different factors and is still a mystery, and that they should not lay blame on themselves.”