NY Disabilities Festival Shines Light on Conquering Challenges
This weekend I went to the Reelabilities NY Disabilities Festival. I thought I’d share a few thoughts in the event that interest might be generated for next year’s festival, usually some time in Jan. or Feb. I was fortunate to attend 9 events, most of which were inspiring and even unforgettable. (I still remember some of the films from last year.) One, called “Anita,” was about a teen with Down Syndrome who, in a difficult situation, finds resources within her that no one would expect. Another, about and by a man (a filmmaker) who had had an accident which caused a traumatic brain injury, “Brain Damadj’d...Take II” documents his recovery and the challenges he and those around him faced in interaction with him. It is done with honesty and an aim to get a true sense of the person - his determination to set his own expectations and goals, despite concerned but limiting prognoses - before and after his injury. A third favorite was “Crooked Beauty,” one woman’s way of dealing with bipolar disorder in a positive and self-sustaining way, appreciative of her own gifts despite moments where her gifts were not so evident. Lastly, for films, “Warrior Champions” challenged me to examine my thinking about the military while I witnessed one man who became a paraplegic in Iraq become a Para Olympian in shot-put and inspire other veterans to ‘not give up,’ and become re-energized through sports, some of them also becoming Para Olympians. He was present after the film, as were other main characters, directors or members of the pertinent community, after their films. In all, the films, and discussions following, were uplifting, as they told the stories of people who thrived and had meaningful lives despite their challenging circumstances.
Two other non-film events were: “If,” a dance performance performed by a physically integrated dance company (choreographer, Heidi Latsky) - i.e. some dancers had disabilities, some did not. The sound of chairs moving (ones they were sitting on), roller skates one dancer was rolling on, were integrated into the piece. The second non-film event (“Our Time”) I saw included a play written by a teen who dealt with a stutter and performed by professional actors, as well as two young women who sang touching songs; when they sing there is no evidence of their stutter. They were available for conversation afterward as well, and questions from the audience made the whole experience even more meaningful.
Though the film festival is over, information about the films are available at www.reelabilities.org. and I’m told that from time to time either a film is picked up for a short run by commercial theaters or can be obtained on Netflix. Also, DVD’s are available for “Crooked Beauty” (check out TheIcarusProject.net or www.crookedbeauty.com) and “Warrior Champions” www.warriorchampions.com.
If you’re interested in hearing about next year’s festival, go to www.reelabilities.org and join their mailing list.
Karen Kraskow is a Learning Specialist in private practice in Manhattan, specializing in working with ‘reluctant writers,’ struggling readers, and mathematicians experiencing confusion and other hurdles. She can be reached at 212 989-0339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.