New York's only fully accessible disabilities film festival will screen for a second year in Scarsdale this week at the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester (JCCMW).
The ReelAbilities New York Disability Film Festival will screen at the Bendheim Performing Arts Center this Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
"This year we have an incredible array of disabilities being portrayed," said Nancy Kaplan, Director of Special Education and Services at JCCMW.
Kaplan, who is coordinating this year's ReelAbilities festival, said that in 2008 the festival drew in over 100 attendees for a screening of the controversial Ben X, a Belgian film about an autistic teenager who, after being continuously tormented by his classmates, fakes his own death in order to teach them, and the world, an important lesson.
The festival, which includes screenings throughout New York City and Westchester, "serves as a unique opportunity for all members of the community, of different abilities, to come together and interact with one another," said Erica Werber, Director of Public Relations at JCC in Manhattan.
Werber said that ReelAbilities expects full audiences this year and that the festival is able to draw in those who wouldn't otherwise be interested in movies about disabled people with "excellent cinematic choices."
Included in the Scarsdale lineup is George Kachadorian's Shooting Beauty (2009), an hour-long documentary about a fashion photographer discovering a type of beauty far from the runways at a home for people living with disabilities.
Kaplan explained in an interview with Patch that Shooting Beauty was inspired by real-life photographer Courtney Bent's frustration when she was invited to take pictures of people living with cerebral palsy, but couldn't accurately convey their lives through her work. It wasn't until Bent gave cameras to her subjects that their self-portraits told a more accurate portrayal.
"Shooting Beauty is an amazing film," Kaplan said.
In 2009, Kachadorian won awards at the Phoenix Film Festival and Woods Hole Film Festival for Shooting Beauty.
Also screening at JCC is White Balance (2003), a narrative film by Israeli filmmaker Dorit Hakim.
White Balance tells the story of Itamar, a 12-year-old who begins to lose his hearing. An ice skater, Itamar is advised by doctors to stay off the rink when his balance is subsequently affected by his hearing loss.
White Balance was also screened last November at the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival.
"When we show white balance there will be people who can hear and people who can't," Kaplan said. "There will be two conversations going on."
Arlene Rice, Director of Communications at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, said that film is an important way for exposing people to different ways of life.
"I think it's always great stimulation to be exposed to other cultures, just as I think hearing people always grow being experienced to deaf culture," Rice said.
In 2008, staff members from the New York School for the Deaf attended the ReelAbilities at JCC on the Hudson in Tarrytown. They viewed Silent Games, a 2008 documentary by Yael Klopmann about a deaf Israeli soccer team that made its way to the top eight in the 2007 World Soccer Championships.
Evan Latainer, Director of the Westchester County Office for the Disabled, said that he has helped get the word out about ReelAbilities through e-mail blasts and the office's newsletter Out and About.
"I think it's a great idea and a great opportunity for the general public to go and see movies that focus especially on the disabled community. It creates a sense of disability awareness," Latainer said.
Latainer said that facilitating community integration for the disabled and non-disabled is a "win-win for everybody."
Kaplan said of the festival: "it's not made for people just with disabilities, we want everybody to come."
ReelAbilities NY Disabilities Film Festival, hosted by JCC of Mid-Westchester, will screen Shooting Beauty on Thurs. Jan. 28 at 9:30am, White Balance on Sat. Jan. 30 at 7:30pm, and Coming Down the Mountain on Sun. Jan. 31 at 10am. Reservations can be made by calling (914) 472-3300. Tickets are $10/adults and $5/students. Group rates are available. JCCMW will offer childcare during Saturday evening's screening.