Friday, May 31, 2013

Reelabilites: Bringing Disability to the Big Screen

For as often as I feel like I post about film, it looks like I've only done one (conflicted and convoluted) film-related post on this blog. Perhaps I'm learning the art of self-restraint. Being that said, I have recently learned of Reelabilites, the largest film festival in the United States dedicated to showcasing films by or about people with disabilities. So today, lovely readers, I share with you a post about film.

First, I feel it is necessary, either for your information or my self-indulgence, to explain why film is so important, especially when it comes to informing people or changing their perspectives. Film has the ability to affect a vast audience; one person's ideas can be shared with people worldwide. That's a lot of power. And although movies,especially documentaries, may be limited in what they can share because of time constraint, this condensed expression of information is actually pretty helpful for a couple of reasons. First of all, more people have time to watch a movie than, say, read a book on the same topic. Films are also more accessible across various levels of comprehension, and even informative movies tend to be entertaining. Finally, there is the visual aspect that cannot be lost in translation from country to country the way that words, either spoken or written, can.

With that in mind, it's easy to see how films by and about people with disabilities could play a huge role in awareness and acceptance, and why film festivals like Reelabilities are important in recognizing and sharing those movies.

Reelabilities, initiated in New York in 2007, showcases international and US films that highlight a variety of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, blindness, Down Syndrome, and mental health. The festival now tours in multiple cities and strives to make each screening as fully accessible as possible with captions, sign language interpretation, CART (Computer Assisted Realtime Translation), Braille, and audio descriptions.

This year's films are numerous and vary from city to city. Some of the screenings have passed, and others are far into the future, but the links to a few of the cities' film list are below for those who want to look into seeing some of these movies. I will mention, though, that “Mary and Max”, the claymated film about a pen-pal correspondence between an eight year-old girl and a 44 year old man with Aspergers, is one of the films featured at the festival, and it happens to be streaming on Netflix right now. “Praying with Lior”, “Ben X”, “Wretches and Jabberers”, and “Ocean Heaven” (AKA "Ocean Paradise") are all streaming right now as well. You might want to take a look at those or some of the other films in the links below (I'm only posting a few links in an attempt to avoid excessive overlap of movie titles):

I think it would be awesome if we could get this festival to come to Portland. Any thoughts on that? What about on these films or films in general? 

Share and discuss!

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