Starting Thursday, Vancouver will play host to the first film festival in the province to feature films made people who have a disability.

Presented by Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture, the Wide Angle Media (WAM) Festival will screen international and local films from two to 50 minutes in length.

The films, which include dramas, documentaries and animation, have varied themes and do not necessarily deal with issues of disability. Yet some of them, like all good art, manage to do both. Take for instance, the film debut by inspirational humourist David Roche.

David is one of five Canadian filmmakers awarded a sponsorship package from WAM to produce a commissioned short for the festival.

Called Beauty School, the short comedy film is set in a beauty salon where an esthetician, played by David, encounters two women, one of whom thinks she needs a face transplant. Beauty School has a “reasonably happy ending,” says David, who hopes viewers will come away laughing and encouraged from his first-ever screenplay and fictional acting performance.

The film’s underlying message is that beauty comes from within — something David says he’s learned in the 20 years he’s been on stage talking about his facial disfigurement using humour from the heart. He’s come to realize that everyone feels disfigured in some way and if it’s not dealt with, emotional and spiritual maturity cannot be realized. This place of fear and doubt also leaves one vulnerable to bullies and predators.

The film, for which he was encouraged and mentored by fellow WAM Festival filmmaker Jan Derbyshire and others, is another step in David’s intensely personal artistic journey.
“I feel this is an opportunity to put out what I’ve learned,”says David, adding it’s “way past the time” for people who have a disability to do this.

“We have something to bring, we have something to teach.”

Beauty School, along with the other four commissioned shorts, will be shown in two screenings at the March 22-25 festival, along with nightly showings of films.

To learn more about WAM, click here.