Diversity is being recognized as an important goal in the film industry. Many voices and many perspectives are needed in every art form, and that is very true of film. This year’s Slamdance Film Festival has made an express effort to bring the idea of ablism and the perspective of people with disabilities (PWD). There is a special section of shorts called “Unstoppable” that focuses on films by or about peoples with disabilities. It has a wide range of styles, tones, and content. There are documentaries, music videos, and narrative films. There are 22 films in the section, so I’m going to divide my comments into two reports. Here’s the first half.
A$$ Level. (4 minutes, directed by Alison Becker). This is a 90’s style rap music video about what life is like in a wheelchair—with attitude. You gotta love the attitude!
Best Friend. (6 minutes, directed by Cory Reeder). This is a story of a family moving from New York to LA. Their daughter is unhappy about leaving her friends, so her mother lets her get a dog. No PWD-specific content, but it does make use of two actors with disabilities (and a disabled dog).
Committed. (6 minutes, directed by Rachel Handler and Chrystal Arnette). When a young man enlists his best friend and his girlfriend’s best friend to help with a marriage proposal, the friends seek to undermine the proposal because they would be moving away. Also no PWD specific content, but actors with disabilities.
Endomic. (10 minutes, directed by Camille Hollett-French and Ipek Ensari). A brief look at the problem many women deal with because of endometriosis. One in ten menstruating women suffer from this painful ailment. The film, made by a researcher, points to the need for more funding to understand, diagnose, and treat this.
Feeling Through.(19 minutes, directed by Doug Roland). A homeless teen helps a blind-deaf man (played by a deaf-blind actor) find his bus to get home. He learns to see the man as more than a problem, and also gets perspective on his own trials. Feeling Through has been shortlisted for Oscar consideration. It is a very moving story.
Flying Eggs. (9 minutes, directed by Sheldon Chau). A man out on his morning run goes by a building where a boy is throwing eggs out the window. He goes up to the apartment in anger, but finds a boy with Down Syndrome. . . and a whole lot more.
Full Picture (12 minutes, directed by Jacob Reed). How do people perceive people who have a disability? When actress and activist Santina Muha had video chats with various people without them seeing her wheelchair, they all had a positive reaction to her. When she meets people for real, the first thing they notice is the chair. She’d prefer they notice her beautiful hair. It reminds us that we all make such assessments of people and need to look deeper than that first thing we notice.
How Much Am I Worth? (6 minutes, directed by Rachel Handler and Catriona Rubenis-Stevens). This serves as an indictment of the US healthcare system. We meet four women with disabilities and hear of the barrier of expense and bureaucracy that they encounter (even with insurance) for the care and equipment they need. When the comparison comes to how one of them is cared for in another country, we know that we should be doing better.
Human Helper. (6 minutes, directed by Shaina Ghuraya). A light sci-fi/comedy in which there are now AI androids (all pretty and females) have been developed to help people. However, they don’t quite know how to react to someone in a wheelchair. A woman in a wheelchair goes attempts to make it work. Many trials follow.
I Wish I Never. (5 minutes, directed by Shaina Ghuraya). The film begins with a note that 40% of women with disabilities experience sexual or physical assault in their life time. This is a music video that reflects on the experience of PWD in abusive relationships.
My Layers.(6 minutes, directed by Susanne Serres). This film uses dance and voice over to reflect the experience of psychosis and using creativity to overcome that separation from reality. It makes for a very visually interesting consideration of that affliction.