reelabilities film festival, people with disabilities
Zack Gottsagen, left, as Zak and Shia LaBeouf as Tyler in "The Peanut Butter Falcon." (Photo credit: Seth Johnson/Signature/Kobal/Shutterstock)

ReelAbilities Film Festival Highlights People with Disabilities

With Hollywood still dismissing filmmakers with disabilities, one film festival is dedicating itself to giving these artists an opportunity to jump-start their careers. The ReelAbilities Film Festival, which held a three-day event in Los Angeles this past weekend, celebrates awareness and the power of film to shatter misconceptions about the capabilities of people with disabilities.

Starting in New York 12 years ago, it is the first film festival to exclusively spotlight a series of award-winning films that are both made by and about people with disabilities.

In 2012, the organization grew beyond the Big Apple, with other cities across the United States hosting festivals, starting with Cincinnati. Since then, ReelAbilities North America became ReelAbilities International, and now the organization has hosted events in 20 cities across the world.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival Los Angeles opened with “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” starring Shia LeBeouf and Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down syndrome.

The festival does more than just show films. It also goes beyond the films to discuss real issues that plague the disability community. ReelAbilities Film Festival screens its movies to schools, corporate offices and community-based organizations throughout the year.

For too long, the film industry has profited from the practice of hiring prominent actors without disabilities to play roles of characters with disabilities.

“It’s important to tell these stories and to tell them authentically,” Danny Woodburn, a little person known for his work in Seinfeld, among other TV shows and films, told KABC-TV, the Los Angeles ABC affiliate. “If we look at The Academy Awards, 61 nominees over the history of The Academy Awards have been for actors who have played characters that have disability. Twenty-seven of those actors are winners. Two are actually people with disability — Harold Russell and Marlee Matlin.”

Related Article: ‘This Close’: Getting People with Disabilities on the Big Screen

Michael Dougherty, who lives with spina bifida, is the co-director of the ReelAbilities Film Festival. For Dougherty, movies are not just his passion, they are his saving grace. He told KABC that they saved his life by providing “a window into a world that was beyond hospitals.”

Latest News

Juneteenth National Independence Day Act bill signing

House Passes — and Biden Signs — New Bill To Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday, one day after the Senate unanimously voted for its passage. President Biden quickly signed the bill into law on June 17, making this year’s Juneteenth the first national recognition of Black Independence Day in the United…

LGBTQ protection in schools

US Education Department Issues Statement Confirming Title IX Protects LGBTQ Students Against Discrimination

Following an executive order from President Joe Biden directing federal agencies to defend LGBTQ students against discrimination, the Education Department has issued an official statement saying that Title IX does indeed ensure equal protection for LGBTQ students under federal law. Jo Yurcaba of NBC News reported that the Department of…

Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Texas Governor Approves Bill Banning Discussions of Race and Racism Within State’s Schools

Texas lawmakers continue to astound with the number of racist, transphobic laws they are willing to try to write into law.  In the last few months alone, we’ve seen Texas lawmakers draft legislation that would penalize parents who support and help their transgender children access gender-affirming care with jail time…

Georgia Power, Georgia Power Foundation Invested More Than $20 Million To Help Meet Community Challenges in 2020

Originally published at Southern Company ranked No. 20 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Georgia Power and the Georgia Power Foundation today released their annual Citizenship Report highlighting how the company, its employees and retirees gave back to Georgia communities last year, helping to build…

Toyota Financial Services Issues New Asset-Backed Green Bond, Highlighting Toyota’s Ongoing Commitment to Sustainability

Originally published at Toyota Motor North America ranked No. 7 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Toyota Financial Services (TFS) issued its latest Asset-Backed Green Bond, reinforcing the company’s longstanding commitment to the sale of environmentally friendly vehicles. Net proceeds from the $1.6…

ADP Recognized as a Customers’ Choice in 2021 Gartner Peer Insights ‘Voice of the Customer’

Originally published at ADP ranked No. 8 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Industry analyst firm Gartner recognized ADP as a Customers’ Choice with category distinctions in Midsize Enterprises and North America in its 2021 Gartner Peer Insights ‘Voice of the Customer’: Cloud HCM Suites…

Cigna building

Cigna and New York Life Expand Eligibility for ‘Brave of Heart Fund’ Grants Supporting Families of Healthcare Workers Who Lost Their Lives in the Fight Against COVID-19

Originally published at Cigna ranked No. 33 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   On June 17, the foundations of New York Life and Cigna announced that the Brave of Heart Fund, which provides monetary grants to the families of heroic health care workers…