Feature image from ReelAbilities’ 2015 opening film “It’s Raining, So What”
ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival is the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities. From June 11 to 14, the ReelAbilities Minneapolis-St. Paul Disabilities Film Festival (RFF) will help spark conversations, and bridge understanding among local film lovers. More than 20 thought-provoking films, many produced by local cinematographers, have been entered into this year’s festival which celebrates the drive and accomplishments of people with disabilities. A record attendance of at least 3,000 people is expected during this four-day event.
Dan Reed, director of marketing and development for Partnership Resources, Inc. (PRI), which is organizing and hosting this year’s festival, explains that while people are being entertained, ReelAbilities’ films will also increase their comfort level about interacting with people who have a disability.
“We don’t see many persons with disabilities in film or on TV.” He explained, “As a result, most of us have experienced fear of interacting with them appropriately. How do I approach someone who has cerebral palsy? Or a person who is blind or deaf? How do I shake a veteran’s hand if they have a prosthetic arm? These powerful stories will promote better understanding and change lives for the better.”
The Audience Awards is hosting the first ever online showcase of short films from ReelAbilities: Minneapolis- St. Paul, June 11 to 24. Global audiences will have the chance to hear ReelAbilities’ mission of “promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.” The Audience Awards has hosted a Q&A with Reed to learn more about the origins of ReelAbilities and their first Audience Awards’ competition.
How did ReelAbilities begin?
Initiated at the JCC in Manhattan, in 2007, the festival presents award-winning films by and about people with disabilities in multiple locations throughout each hosting city. Post-screening discussions and other engaging programs bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience. In 2014, the JCC in Manhattan collaborated with the Cincinnati-based agency, Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD, Inc), to operate the National program of the film festival, enabling us to focus more resources and provide more support to festivals around the country.
How has ReelAbilities Minneapolis-St. Paul evolved?
At our first festival our perceptions were solidified that there is considerable interest in movies relating to people and disabilities. Surveys from our Advisory Board and audience revealed that they wanted a local connection. That led us to come up with the MN Filmmakers of All Abilities Challenge.
What is one of the most inspiring stories from one of the ReelAbilities filmmakers?
Steve Wampler and his family who created Wampler’s Ascent has to be a main highlight. Their story was so powerful and inspiring, that we are bringing them back for this festival.
How does The Audience Awards help expand the reach and mission of your festival?
It enables us to maximize our mission of creating awareness and opening peoples’ eyes to people with disabilities.
The Audience Awards is proud to host the ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival and the debut of their online showcase of short films from ReelAbilities: Minneapolis- St. Paul. Voting began this morning, so be sure to check out the competition and show your support today!
Check out the opening film’s trailer “It’s Raining So What”