The Key of G explores the community of family and caregivers that have come together around Gannet Hosa-Betonte, a developmentally disabled young man taking his first steps toward independence. Over the past three years, filmmaker Robert Arnold has documented the lives of Gannet, his family, and his companions -- from the physically demanding effort necessary to get him bathed and dressed every morning, to impromptu concerts, road trips, and medical crises. The Key of G unfolds chronologically, beginning with Gannet still living at his mother's house while building relationships with Donal, Colter, and his other caregivers. It then follows them into totally uncharted waters as Gannet moves away from home after 22 years. The move signals a challenging new life for all of them.
Gannet (or "G" as his friends call him) is not the easiest person to get to know since he suffers from a panoply of physical and developmental disabilities with symptoms resembling autism. Because he was born with Mowat-Wilson syndrome, the two halves of Gannet's brain don't communicate well with each other, and he has a hard time integrating what he sees, hears and feels into a single coherent picture of the world. He had no language at all until age ten. Gradually he learned to communicate with others through a touch system of yes and no and by pointing at icons in a communication book. Even without speaking, though, Gannet's primary interest is clear: sound. Anything that makes a good sound is a portal into Gannet's world -- cars and motorcycles, rustling leaves, velcro, sneezes, and especially his piano, which he attacks with his whole body.
This first glimpse of Gannet -- his gangly body hunched over the piano, his mouth hanging open and eyes scanning the ceiling above him -- is disconcerting. But as he continues to play, discomfort gives way to fascination, and Gannet's odd charisma starts to draw us in. As we watch him interacting and communicating with the people around him, our acceptance of him as a full person with his own passionate fears and desires, begins to flower. The camera work and sound steer our senses in new directions, and we come to understand something of Gannet's unique way of experiencing the world and the dramatic effect it has on those around him.
Under different circumstances, someone like Gannet could easily wind up in an institution, but through his mother's force of will and Gannet's own vibrancy, Gannet is living a relatively charmed life. Eschewing the conventional care model of paid professionals working with but keeping an emotional distance from "clients," Gannet's mother Amy has created a unique and somewhat controversial alternative for her son -- a tightly knit group of artists who surround and support him not just as paid caregivers, but also as friends and, eventually, roommates. Gannet has become part of their social circle, exposing a wide variety of artists and musicians to his unique way of experiencing the world. Donal, one of Gannet's caregivers/roommates, marvels at the incredible life force that pushes outward from Gannet, "... all that energy that ripples through him, looks like it's going to break his bones sometimes." The Key of G follows Gannet and his caregivers on an intensely personal journey as they attempt to form a household together. It is a window into an extraordinary world of interdependence that challenges our assumptions about disability and long-term care.