Josh Duffy is a die-hard Down from the Wound fan and lover of calzones with an unshakeable, deeply entrenched urge to connect with others. On a random day eight years ago, Duffy felt this routine desire to befriend his peers when he met Jake Jakubowski. The two are now best friends, with a movie directed and produced by Jakubowski—about Duffy—to show for it. The documentary is not only a testament to their friendship, but to Duffy’s friendliness, which has coined him the name (and documentary title) “The Mayor of Brunswick.”
“The Mayor of Brunswick” premiered in January of 2021 and highlights Duffy’s lived experience with Williams Syndrome. Williams Syndrome is a rare developmental disorder that is partially characterized by a mix of over-friendliness, high levels of empathy and anxiety. The film illustrates Josh’s plights, accomplishments, love for music, unique skills and navigation of William’s syndrome, which makes him love everybody.
Duffy’s epithet is chalked up to the positive impact he’s made on members of the Brunswick community as a result of his desire for social engagement. He pushes those around him to take risks when making new friends, just like he did with Jakubowski.
When Duffy met Jakubowski, Jakubowski was unhoused. In addition to cultivating friendship, Duffy offered Jakubowski a place to stay.
“He was going through [a lot mentally], so I saved him, kind of,” Duffy said. “I brought him into the house, and we became good friends after that.”
Jakubowski and Duffy recall that their friendship greatly helped the two to overcome their respective obstacles. Jakubowski needed a home, and Duffy a friend.
“He was always willing to help out even if he didn’t understand the situation on a complex level. His empathy was just always so strong to the point [that if] he saw that you were down, he would be down. So he would try to bring you up, so that he could be up as well,” Jakubowski said.
Jakubowski wanted his documentary to properly depict Duffy’s empathy.
“People will be 50 miles away in some random town, and he’ll run into somebody that he knows from Brunswick without fail every time. So he definitely is a social butterfly and knows a lot of people,” Jakubowski said. “I appreciate him very much because he’s helped me out.”
In addition to featuring Duffy, the documentary also aims to spread the word about Williams Syndrome. Duffy, in the movie, operates as a lens through which audiences can view the experiences of those with Williams Syndrome: their ups, downs and everything in between.
“You know, when I got divorced, I was very lonely. [But Josh] always feels like he’s alone. That’s part of the syndrome. Even though he has a million friends, he always feels like he’s alone,” Jakubowski said.
Individuals with Williams Syndrome, despite their strong desire for social engagement, often struggle with making friends and building long-lasting relationships.
Like others with Williams Syndrome, Duffy wishes more people had his desire for emotional connection. He reminisced on an experience this past Halloween when this craving was satiated.
“There’s a woman that I’ve known for probably 15 years. She is an angel.… I go to her place on Halloween, I see her family and they’re so happy—the way it should be,” Duffy said. “There needs to be more of that.”
Despite Duffy’s desire for more community, he’s happy with the community he’s found in Brunswick—from Portland Pizza to Kings and Queens Hair Studio.
“I used to work at a movie gallery and KB toy store and they were a lot of fun; they’re good people,” Duffy said. “I go to Kings and Queens a lot. You want a good haircut? Get one over there. Kings and Queens. My homeboys, Danny and Adrian, will hook you up. They’re a lot of fun over there. The music’s good, the people laugh a lot. You know, it’s like a family over there. That’s what we need around here. A family.”
When filming the documentary, Jakubowski reached out to the Williams Syndrome Association in Michigan. Their conversation revealed that “the mayor” epithet isn’t foreign in the Williams Syndrome Community.
“I was talking to the Williams Syndrome Association out in Michigan, they said that that term is actually used a lot within the Williams Syndrome Community,” Jakubowski said. “Especially if there’s only one person with Williams in that town—they just have that je ne sais quoi that a mayor would have.”
Duffy looks forward to meeting more Brunswick residents and is constantly looking to learn more about his community and the interests of its inhabitants. If you see Josh Duffy around—as long as he’s not wrapped up with mayoral duties—play him a song, give him a calzone or just ask him a question. He’ll be sure to do the same.