Reelabilities Film Festival Generates ‘Reel’ Awareness
The Reelabilities Film Festival features individuals who faced enormous hurdles and came out winning. Those hurdles can be anything from learning to speak again (after a stroke), being the sibling of a person with a disability, facing love as a blind individual, and the numerous others that life can hand us, either temporarily, in old age, or during the greater part of our life.
The following films were screened recently at the Reelabilities Film Festival at the Jewish Community Center, one of the Festival’s 23 nearby locations.
“Mabul” (Israel) depicted the troubled relationship of a young boy to his older autistic brother whose behavior — his obsessions with insects — embarrassed and startled him. Tenderly it shows how he became his warmest support. The devotion of his mother, under a variety of stressors, is also movingly depicted.
“Aphasia” (United States) introduced us to Carl McIntyre, who, after a successful career in acting, suffered a massive stroke. The stroke caused aphasia, which required him to re-learn to speak, read and write, and affected his ability to understand what others were saying. The documentary shows him working with a speech therapist to regain his skills, but more significantly the trial of ordering a “Frozee” from a drive-in concession. Repeatedly he goes back, listens to their sing-song advertisement and is unable to respond. Though he can drive, and his cognition is not impaired, he never knows when the response he wants to call up will require a sound (like the “f” as in “Frozee) he cannot articulate yet. As he struggles to make the sound come out, cars are honking behind him.
The film makes clear the situations a person with aphasia is likely to encounter during his or her time recovering. Fortunately it provides us with hope as the waitress eventually learns to ask for the patience of the patrons behind him in the drive-in line, as he gets closer and closer to articulating his choice.
There was a standing ovation when McIntyre himself walked on to the stage after the film (as is customary during this festival) and tells us, in not-yet smooth language, that yes, he is frustrated and angry, but that “every day is good, too” — every day has possibilities. “I need hope every day.” “Hope is everything.” “No good insulate yourself,” he said. McIntyre left the audience with this message: “Aphasia still sucks, and I win every day — you can too.” He gardens and paints, makes movies, and reminds us that “what happens to one happens to two,” speaking of his devoted wife, and of course his three children.
The themes of these films can apply to us all in whatever level of struggle we face in our daily lives. Seeing films like these humanizes us — to be more patient with ourselves, and understanding of others. #
Karen Kraskow, M.A., M.S.W., is a learning specialist in private practice in New York City who has seen the issue of “acceptance” of a learning disability play out in many ways, with eventual overcoming and success in reading and writing by students of all ages.