Local filmmaker shines spotlight on Parkinson’s disease in documentary

Larry Smith is featured in the documentary “Ride With Larry.” Courtesy photo

By Rob LeDonne

“Ride With Larry,” a documentary on Parkinson’s disease premiering Saturday, Oct. 5, as part of the San Diego Film Festival, is the brainchild of a local filmmaker who knows how it impacts people all too well. Local resident Andrew Rubin is hoping to raise more awareness for the disease after he saw its impact on members of his own family.

“My dad has Parkinson’s and so did his father and a cousin of mine. It’s something that’s prevalent on his side of the family,” he explained. “What’s really important for us is for people with Parkinson’s to see this film.”

The documentary focuses on Larry Smith, a current San Diego resident who has advanced Parkinson’s. However, Smith’s lifestyle is that of an athletic and active man, which isn’t a typical view of the disease.

“Larry is probably one of the most advanced Parkinson’s patients you’ll ever meet,” Rubin said. “Personally, it kind of hit me pretty hard. He’s endlessly positive.”

The centerpiece of “Ride with Larry” is a 300-mile bike ride Larry takes across South Dakota, which Rubin says is part of the most inspiring facet of Larry’s life.

“A lot of the time, what happens with patients is that you get a diagnosis and you’re told there’s no cure, which doesn’t give people a lot of hope,” Rubin said. “But then you look at what Larry is doing; his message really resonates beyond the disease. We want to show that this could be anyone’s life who is struggling with the disease.”

Along with Rubin, the producers of “Ride With Larry” include industry veteran Stephen Nemeth, along with Josh Haywood, who produced and directed various series for MTV. Rubin explained that when the crew returned from filming in South Dakota, they edited a trailer and held a Kickstarter fundraiser to try to raise additional funds for the movie.

“We not only hit our $50,000 goal, but got $63,000,” Rubin said. “At the time, we were the most funded documentary Kickstarter had ever had.

The premiere of “Ride With Larry” coincides nicely with the recent NBC premiere of “The Michael J Fox Show,” a sitcom built around the title star’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease. All of the latest news and awareness is only good for people struggling with the disease, said Rubin, who’s trying to shine a spotlight on various Parkinson’s treatments, including medical marijuana (which is highlighted in the film) and exercise.

“The more active you are with Parkinson’s, the better you will feel. When you exercise, it produces the same effect as the medication that they’re given,” Rubin said. “It’s not just endorphin’s and weight loss... you’ll end up fighting the disease.”

So far, the filmmakers have been showered with positive response over the documentary with its subject matter having a “significant impact” on audiences, not only in San Diego but around the world. Last weekend, it screened at the South Dakota International Film Festival and it’s also been shown at Mexico’s Puebla International Film Festival, the Monterrey International Film Festival and, later this month, will be screened at the Orlando International Film Festival.

Throughout it all, Rubin has a simple goal: “For those with Parkinson’s, we want them to be inspired.”

“Ride With Larry” will be screened on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 3:30 p.m. at the ArcLight Cinemas in La Jolla. A reception will follow the screening.

For more in the San Diego Film Festival, visit