ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival Announces Special Events and Speakers

The 3rd Annual ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival begins February 3rd in 20 venues throughout the five boroughs, Roosevelt Island, Long Island and Westchester.

ReelAbilities is dedicated to promoting the awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. Discussions and other engaging programs will bring together the community to explore, discuss and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience. Films this year will have an increased focus on man-made disabilities and mental illness.

At the core of the festival’s mission lies the importance of conversation and interaction. Award winning filmmakers and esteemed guests join the roster of films to create meaningful conversations and engagement beyond the films.

Guest speakers at this year’s festival will include renowned documentary filmmakers, Craig and Brent Renaud. At the upcoming festival, the Renaud brothers will be presenting their film WARRIOR CHAMPIONS, following four Iraq War veterans training to compete at the Olympics after losing limbs and suffering paralysis fighting for their country in Iraq.

Two of the athletes portrayed in the film will attend the festival as well – Melissa Stockwell, the first female American soldier in history to lose a limb in active combat., and later to become the first wounded Iraq War Veteran to make the U.S. Paralympics Swim Team; and Scott Winkler, who became paralyzed from the chest down during his tour in Iraq, and in 2008 set out to become one of the first Iraq War Veterans in history to make the Paralympics Games in Beijing.

Additional speakers include Academy Award®-winning documentary producer and director Gerardine Wurzburg who will participate in the festival alongside Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher; protagonists of her documentary film WRETCHES & JABBERERS. Her films have had a major impact for social change. Major awards include an Academy Award® for the documentary Educating Peter, an Academy Award® nomination for Autism is a World, and the Cable ACE for Documentary Directing, among others.

CROOKED BEAUTY, the visually stunning account of artist-activist Jacks Ashley McNamara’s life journey, will be introduced by McNamara and the documentary’s director Ken Paul Rosenthal. Joining them will be Sascha Altman DuBrul, founder of the groundbreaking Icarus Project.

Special events will include the following (Click here for dates and times):

Diversity on Sesame Street: 40 years of the seminal TV show screened for kids in one room, while adults are treated to clips and a conversation with show writer Emily Perl Kingsley, whose son has Down syndrome.

Flame: A spectacular show from the NY-based band, comprising 11 musicians/performers with developmental and physical abilities.

FREE Players: Family Residences and Essential Enterprises’ (FREE) jazz ensemble of performers with mental and develop-mental disabilities.

IF, created by Heidi Latsky Dance: Excerpts from IF, a breathtaking com-munity-based dance performance which transcends physical differences with a diverse cast of 20 that is multi-generational, multiracial and of mixed ability.

Music for Autism: An interactive, “Autism friendly” con-cert featuring Broadway’s Jersey Boys’ Dominic Nolfi, Dominic Scaglione and Deborah Hurwitz. Open for individuals with autism and their families. Advance registration required.

Navigating Disability: An Exploration by four artists: Fountain Gallery, the premier venue for artists with mental illness, and VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, present 4 artists (Jacks Ashley McNamara, Martin Cohen, Emily Eifler, and Scott Ligon) who are navigating unique relationships between disability and creative expressions. ON VIEW February 3 – April 28 at The Laurie M Tisch Gallery at The JCC in Manhattan, Sat. Feb 5, 6pm – Reception and talk with Artist Jacks Ashley McNamara

Our Time Theatre Company: Original work by the talented members of Our Time, a non-profit organization that uses the arts to improve the confidence and communication skills of young people who stutter.

Seeing with Photography: A striking exhibition of photos from artists who are visually impaired, partially sighted, and totally blind. On View Feb 3-8 at The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library.

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