Spotlight on Disability Film Festivals: Disability From Real to Reel
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There are loads of large and small film festivals the world over. I’m particularly fond of Disability film festivals. This is not because I feel disability film needs to be segregated from all other film. But there are not a lot of venues where people are ready and willing to open up to Disability arts.
Some people are scared the quality of the art will not be high enough. (Wrong!) Or they worry they can’t relate to the subject matter. (Maybe, but probably wrong!) Really, disabled folks are usually not given the same access to the training, resources, tools, funding, accommodations, and even encouragement to become artists that non-disabled counterparts do. And so we don’t recognize how many disabled artists there are until we get a Disability specific festival.
Also, in my experience, Disability film festivals are more accessible.
I was shown in one non-disability festival where there was no ramp to get up onto the stage for my talk back. (I don’t need one, but, hmm, what if someone did? They would have been excluded.) There were stairs with no railing, which was actually a problem for me. The lights were excessively bright and painful, and the stage was covered with area rugs, some rolled up, all stacked in weird ways. This may have looked hip and grungy and exciting. But honestly, it caused me embarrassment because I could not get a secure footing and kept tripping over the various layers.
It’s annoying enough to have issues with balance and dizziness in a regular space, but then under glaring lights in front of an audience with an uneven, soft surface? It’s genuinely dangerous. Being a brain-injured filmmaker doesn’t mean you have to go get a brain injury every time your film is shown.
At Disability From Real to Reel in Austin, TX, a nice ramp had been built in the venue where the festival takes place. Not only that, but the festival organizer, my dear Celia Hughes, asked me to just not go onstage during the talk-back. She worried I might be off-balance and bothered by the stage lights. She encouraged me to stand just next to the stage where I could actually lean against it for support instead of dealing with stairs or a ramp.
This wasn’t denying me access. This was giving me a safer place to stand so I could concentrate on answering questions about my film instead of worrying about falling. Brilliant, Celia! Not that I answered questions about my film. Well, maybe. I don’t remember what we talked about!
Watch for the next Spotlight! There really are several more disability film festivals.