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New film follows 2 zombie moviemakers with Down syndrome

Two best friends with Down syndrome who caused a sensation four years ago when they created their own gory zombie movie are back, this time in a documentary championed by a Hollywood luminary.

“Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” released Tuesday on Apple TV, follows Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt on their relentless 10-year quest to storyboard, script, produce, cast, and star in 2016′s “Spring Break Zombie Massacre,” a comedy slasher movie complete with severed heads and spurting arteries. The original movie earned national attention and appeared on Conan O’Brien’s show for the two Rhode Island natives.

Suchman and Zufelt, both 25, loved the attention then – and they’re loving it again now.

“I’ve always been the shy guy,” Suchman said. “Now I’m experiencing what the cool kids are experiencing.”

But talk to anyone who knows them, and it’s not overcoming a disability that makes their story remarkable – it’s the sheer determination they showed in getting the movie made.

“They’re a whirlwind of energy and happiness,” Peter Farrelly, a fellow Rhode Islander and executive producer of the documentary, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “These guys are really sharp and they knew what they wanted. Our job was to help them but not get in their way.”

Farrelly, producer of the Oscar-winning film “Green Book,” and his brother, Bobby, have cast actors with disabilities in their movies for years and pushed for other Hollywood powerbrokers to do the same. Their 2005 movie “The Ringer,” about someone pretending to have a disability and competing in the Special Olympics, had about 150 extras with Down syndrome. The Farrellys were named the 2020 recipients of the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion, given by the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation for demonstrating outstanding accomplishment in the field of disability inclusion.

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