A Place at the Table: Doc Filmmakers with Disabilities on Building Careers and Disproving Stereotypes

Documentary Magazine published a great article about the little-known community of disabled filmmakers:

We are a community that isn’t very well known. In fact, I’d venture to say that the general population isn’t aware that there are millions of us out there who identify culturally as disabled or Deaf. For those of us who do identify that way, there is a rich history of art, dance, theater, music (well beyond Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles) and now, film. I believe that we need to tell our stories because we can do so from our own perspective, not one that is filtered through someone else’s lens. Who is more likely to make a film about police violence against the disabled and Deaf? Who better the make a film about the life-and-death consequences of rolling back the ACA and Medicare? We make films that go well beyond the worn-out tropes of what being disabled and Deaf is all about. Being able to view a broader perspective on life benefits us all.

Read the rest at: https://www.documentary.org/feature/place-table-doc-filmmakers-disabilities-building-careers-and-disproving-stereotypes

Everything Will Be Okay: An Epic Documentary about ALS

Patrick O’Brien is an underground filmmaker suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (AKA Lou Gehrig’s Disease), who’s making a 35mm feature documentary about his experiences. Now having lost almost all control of his body, Patrick is using an eye tracking computer to complete his film, with the help of his friends. He’s launched a RocketHub crowdfunding project to raise the money to finish the film. “Everything Will Be OK: An Epic Documentary about ALS”

Normal People Scare Me

Normal People Scare Me is a unique film because it features interviews with people who are living with autism speaking for themselves, as well as a handful of parents of children with autism, some of whom get diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders themselves while their children are going through the process.
Besides the parents and siblings sharing candid observations about people with autism, a diverse group of youths with various degrees of ASD are given the opportunity to speak out on certain distinctive aspects of their symptomology and how it affects their daily lives. (One who does not speak nevertheless sits for interviews, and responds to verbal cues from his father by squeezing a finger as a response, with statements broken down into multiple-choice questions by his father/interpreter for this purpose.)
Among the examples of sensory sensitivities not felt as intensely by “normal” people, but remarked upon by people with autism, were food textures, loud, sudden, high-pitched sounds, itchy clothing tags, certain smells and tastes. This gives a window into a daily existence where some seemingly mundane experiences which might not bother “normal” people loom fearfully for people with ASD. Other collations of sound bites show a range of experiences with socialization, scholastic aptitude, and life with “normals”, i.e., “neurotypicals”, better known on websites for the ASD community as “NTs”, who are at best mysterious and ignorant, at worst, school bullies and judgmental parents on the outside looking in.
No wonder that a few people with ASD, given the opportunity to express their thoughts in sound bytes on the video format, allow that “normal” people scare them. (A few hint that some of the so-called “normal” people might well be other, more nefarious things, merely masquerading as “normal”.)
Some of those who are young adults with ASD, including the filmmaker, additionally discuss their future plans, such as entering college, and their prospects of success with academic work and peer socialization.
Someone who commented on the YouTube trailer of the movie shared the desire for quality captioning of the movie, albeit for different reasons:
“I hope? you will consider captioning the film so that it will be accessible to people with hearing impairment or auditory processing difficulties. The automatic captioning is not very good, so adding the correct captions is crucial.”

The Nerves of Us

Nico, a man with spastic diplegia, contemplates the years of unnecessary damage to his bones and joints.

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) is the only surgery currently in existence that pretty much cures the average case of our spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects approximately 70% of the CP individuals known to science.

While orthopedic deformities may remain depending on how late the rhizotomy was performed, high tone is permanently dissipated, freeing the person to live life with normal muscle tone.

But most doctors won’t tell an adult with CP spasticity that. Most are still under the impression, for whatever reason, that SDR will not work or will not be healthy for a young or middle-aged adult with anything greater than the mildest degree of tone. But there have been several cases, including one as recently as September 2008 performed on a 28-year-old with moderate spastic diplegia, that shows that assumption to be baseless.

The main obstacle is simple: the medical establishment’s mode of thought is still dominant and holds all the power. And usually, we people with spastic diplegia and similar CP-spasticity, accustomed as we are to doctors having more answers and experience than we do, do not look in to the things we are not given.

Read more at rhizotomyfilm.com.


In Uncle, Adam Elliott’s first short film, an unknown narrator reminisces about his strange uncle and the rumblings from his colostomy bag. Loosely based on a compilation of Elliott’s experiences with eight of his uncles, the short film has a brief depiction of a lonely, aging eccentric who has a breakdown while grieving, and the ensuing realities of the mental health care system.

The anonymous narrator says “He was never the same after that, and it wasn’t long before they took him away. When my cousin had found him rolling on the floor, both legs in one pajama trouser, they moved him to the Ashburn Gentleman’s Hospice.” The narrator brings him a flask of whiskey to hide under his pillow, and finds him attaching his false teeth to his pajamas with a piece of string to keep the other patients from stealing them.

VSA Apprenticeship for Emerging Filmmakers with Disabilities

VSA invites emerging filmmakers with disabilities, ages 18 to 30, from around the world who are interested in expanding their education and knowledge of documentary filmmaking to apply to be an apprentice at the renowned AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival and International Documentary Conference in June of 2011.

AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival and International Documentary Conference offers numerous opportunities for apprentices to be introduced to the most current trends in documentary filmmaking. Sessions, panels, master classes, small group discussions with industry leaders, and networking events will offer a select group of emerging filmmakers the opportunity to hone their skills, increase their knowledge base, and develop their network of professional contacts. Silverdocs staff will create a customized learning experience for each VSA Apprentice under the tutelage of AFI Silver’s Education Coordinator, Matt Boratenski.

Attendance at the entire conference is required. The official language for the conference is English and if necessary, accommodations will be made for American Sign Language. In order to fully participate, applicants must be able to speak, read, and write English fluently.

The selected VSA Apprentices will have the following expenses covered by VSA and AFI:

  • Conference registration, room, and board
  • Round-trip economy class or coach travel to and from Silver Spring, Maryland, including ground transportation
  • Travel, room, and board for a personal care assistant, if required
  • Reasonable accommodation for the apprentice’s disability

-from VSArts.org

The Launch: Luke Anderson

After an offroad cycling accident, Luke Anderson acquired a spinal cord injury. He talks in this video about how he is launched into trying out new things. One is film making. He speaks about overcoming barriers , fears and what he calls being a “stubbornly independent person” before his accident and how that has led him to new experiences.

(Via WheelieCatholic.)