Right now in our great city ReelAbilities Film Festival is happening! According to the website, it's 'the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities'.
Since its inception in 2007, ReelAbilities has showcased award-winning films made by and about people with various disabilities. In addition to film-screenings, theater and dance presentations, story telling sessions and post-screening panel discussions are taking place through March 11.All told, the festival will host over 40events at 32 venues in 8 NY counties.
Some of the highlights include the following:
Heidi Latsky Dance is a New York-based modern dance company comprised of dancers with and without disabilities'. A central part of their mission is to work with performers with unique attributes to create passionate and provocative contemporary dance performances that redefine beauty and skill through the use of discourse and practice. Apothetae Theater is giving apresentation of 'Good Dancer'. The theater is dedicated to bringing disability into the theatrical mainstream by producing full-length plays about the disabled experience. The Moth, MothSHOP storytelling workshop at the JCC, Manhattan.Cinemability isa documentary film that critically discusses how mainstream media has shaped conceptions of disability over the years. It asks important questions like, do media portrayals of disability impact social attitudes about people with disabilities?If so, what can the media do to broaden and diversify perceptions about disability in ways that encourage inclusion? Is it that filmmakers have a responsibility to use an actor with a disability to portray a character with a disability? Click on the link to catch the film trailer. The Commute isa short film about the public transport experience of a NYC wheelchair user. Click the link to view the film.
I can't stress enough how important the ReelAbilities initiative is. The mainstream media, we know has a strong hand in shaping and influencing how we think about so many things. Disability is not excluded from this. The media seldom portray people with disabilities as empowered, leading independent fulfilling lives. The subject of disability has been and continues to be primarily represented as either a tragedy or a fete of heroism. Real people with disabilities are not often used to play film and TV characters of people with disabilities. Physically disabled bodies are absent from the mainstream imaginary of physical beauty because the ideal gender physique is always 'able-bodied'. This way of representing (or not representing) disability reinforces a limited, negative and often inaccurate idea of what it means to have a disability that reproduces the social marginality of people with disabilities. In the words of festival director Anita Altman, the mission of ReelAbilities is to bring the face of the other, who is too often absent from our daily interactions, into view through the medium of creative arts.
A full schedule of films and events and how to obtain tickets can be found on the ReelAbilities NYC website.
ReelAbilities is a national program run in other cities like Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta and D.C. to name a few. For more information about upcoming festival schedules, how to support the program or get involved as a volunteer, performer or filmmaker, check out the website main page.