NYC-based festival Reelabilties is the country's largest film festival showcasing films about disabilities and films by artists with disabilities. Now in its fourth year, the film festival, which prides itself on its accessibility, will screen in 23 locations in all five boroughs.
"What sets us apart from other festivals on the subject is the amount of locations," Festival Director Isaac Zablocki told Indiewire. "Also, all of the films are captioned, and we're the only festival in New York that prints film programs in Braille and features audio descriptions for the blind."
The idea is certainly catching on. Reelabilities has launched festivals in seven other cities this year, and Zablocki thinks it's having an impact.
"We don't just reach audiences with disabilities. People are often coming for the films themselves, rather than just for the mission of the festival. A lot of our audience is made up of people with disabilities, their families and their caregivers, but over fifty percent are not. We're reaching the mainstream as well."
The festival began when Zablocki, director of film and literary programs at Manhattan's Jewish Community Center, noticed the success he had screening films for the Center's special needs audience. "We needed a festival about this specific subject matter and there was none in New York."
Despite its growth, the festival will remain relatively small and community-based, at least until more American films begin to include the narratives of people with special needs.
"More films are made outside of the United States on this topic," Zablocki said. "Plenty of the world's film industries and audiences see a market for this kind of film, specifically in Europe, where there's traditionally a lot of smaller films and access to government funds. Lots of these films are amazing, and, best of all, we get to show premieres. Many of the films are embraced outside of the U.S., but we're often the first or only American festival to show these movies."
Reelabilities runs in New York City from February 9-14. For tickets and more information, check out the festival's official site.