In Indian director Shonali Bose’s “Margarita,” which played Toronto in 2014, Laila, a fiery young Indian woman with cerebral palsy, leaves India to study at New York University, where she unexpectedly falls in love and begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery. It’s a life-affirming and compassionate portrayal of a subject rarely seen on film, told with insight and humor.
— Inkoo Kang
JCC Manhattan’s ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival is gearing up for its eighth edition this March with its largest slate yet. The 2016 festival will take place in a record number of venues across New York from March 10-16, including Lincoln Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New York Public Library branches. A nationwide tour of the festival will follow the New York launch.
Initiated by JCC Manhattan in 2007, ReelAbilities is the largest festival in the country dedicated to presenting award-winning films made by and about people with physical, developmental and psychological disabilities. The festival is part of a movement to bring awareness and appreciation to the experiences and stories of people living and thriving with disabilities. The event provides accessibility aids such as captions, ASL interpretation, audio description and CART (live captioning) in all of its 40 accessible locations for every screening.
This year’s festival will open with the New York premiere of “Margarita, With a Straw,” the true story of a young Indian woman with cerebral palsy who moves to NY to attend NYU and is exposed to a new world.
“At a time when diversity and inclusion is lacking on our screens, we put disabilities in the forefront with hopes that this will bring the New York community to further recognize the country’s largest minority,” said Isaac Zablocki, director and co-founder of the festival ,in an official statement.
Tickets for JCC Manhattan’s 8th Annual ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival go on sale February 11. Check out the official lineup below.
2E: TWICE EXCEPTIONAL
Dir. Thomas Ropelewsky (54 min, USA, Documentary)
An honest, up-close look at a group of high school students identified as “twice exceptional”—highly gifted individuals with learning disabilities or differences. 2E indicates where our next generation of “outliers”—geniuses, mavericks, and dreamers—may come from and what it’s like to be their parent or teacher.
A BLIND HERO: THE LOVE OF OTTO WEIDT
Dir. Kai Christensen (89 min, Germany, Narrative)
The story of the heroic Otto Weidt, who saved dozens of Jews from the Nazi death camps. Weidt, a broom factory owner, cunningly outwits the Nazis to protect his staff, most of whom are Jewish and blind.
DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR?
Dir. Abigail Fuller & Sarah Ivy (76 min, USA, Documentary)
Four teens who are blind navigate high school and strive to achieve their goals: to be a sponsored skateboarder, to travel the world, to become a rock star, and to be the first in one’s family to graduate high school.
ENTER THE FAUN
Dir. Tamar Rogoff & Daisy Wright (67 min, USA, Documentary)
As a veteran choreographer trains a young actor with cerebral palsy to dance in her performance, they discover that her lack of formal medical training and his fears and physical limitations provide the impetus for unprecedented transformation.
Dir. Luke Terrell (72 min, USA, Documentary)
Gabe was born with muscular dystrophy. For his entire life, he was told he would be lucky to live past 25. Upon learning he was misdiagnosed and could live well into his 50s, Gabe is forced to rethink his life from scratch.
Dir. Madoka Raine (100 min, USA, Narrative)
Four women celebrate a friend’s birthday for the first time since a car accident left her in a wheelchair. Over the course of a weekend, intimacies are shared and an unthinkable betrayal forces the group of friends and lovers to re-evaluate long-held assumptions.
Dir. Denis Dercourt (90 min., France, Narrative)
After a serious riding accident, Marc loses all hope of ever getting back on a horse. Florence, who works for an insurance company, is placed in charge of his case. Their brief interaction will impact them in more ways than they can imagine.
MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW
Dir. Shonali Bose & Nilesh Maniyar (97 min, India, Narrative)
A funky, joyous, coming-of-age tale. Laila, a Punjabi girl with cerebral palsy, is an aspiring writer who leaves India for a coveted spot at New York University, where she is exposed to and explores a new world.
Dir. Terry McMahon (98 min, Ireland, Narrative)
An audacious and provocative love story. Patrick is a warm young man living with schizophrenia. His mother’s fierce protection means he is no threat to himself or anyone else — until St. Patrick’s Day, when he falls in love.
STILTS AND SPOKES
Dir. Jack Winch (91 min, USA, Documentary)
After falling off a boulder while climbing and breaking his neck, Jay Cramer rebounds from injury to win the Los Angeles Funniest Comic competition. While in rehab, he meets and falls in love with Katy Sullivan, a world-class double above-the-knee amputee sprinter.
THAT WHICH IS POSSIBLE
Dir. Michael Gitlin (84 min, USA, Documentary)
A community of painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers create works at the Living Museum, an art space on the grounds of a large state-run psychiatric facility in Queens. That Which Is Possible explores creativity as a more humane and holistic approach to mental illness
Dir. Juan Rayos (82 min, Spain, Documentary)
An astonishing journey of two brothers—Sergio, who is blind and has autism, and his brother, Juan—who embark on a 1,300-kilometer tandem bike ride from Spain to Morocco.
THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS
Dir. Maximon Monihan (109 min, USA, Narrative)
Olga, along with others from Mexico and Guatemala, is brought to New York under the false promise of being offered a scholarship at a sign language school. Upon arrival, they discover they are being held hostage by a cartel, and are forced to sell paper towels on the New York City Subway.
A GRAND PURSUIT
Dir. Will Strathmann
2015, 23 min, USA, Documentary
Vasu Sojitra is the first leg amputee to attempt climbing the Grand Teton mountains without using a prosthetic leg.
Dir. Chris King
2015, 16 min, USA, Narrative
A severely wounded Marine returns home to his wife after months of surgery and rehabilitation.
Dir. Jenna Kanell
2015, 4 min, USA, Narrative
Despite being told as a child he would never walk or speak, Vance accomplished the impossible. But now he has a new challenge: dating.
CHIMES FOR TYLER
Dir. Stephen Panaggio
2014, 8 min, USA, Documentary
A boy with autism can distinguish wind chimes by sound.
GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN
Dir. Diego Robles
2012, 12 min, USA, Narrative
A blind veteran changes his outlook on life after meeting a young girl.
Dir. Tony Borden
2015, 7 min, USA, Narrative
Shannon and David meet online and go on a revealing first date.
I DON’T CARE
Dir. Caroline Giammetta
2014, 14 min, UK, Narrative
A mother-to-be faces the possibility of having a child with Down syndrome.
Dir. Adam Goldhammer
2013, 14 min, Canada, Narrative
After her parents are killed, 22-year-old Kelly is the sole caregiver for her older brother Jesse who has autism.
Dir. Marcus A. McDougald & Jennifer Medvin
2015, 10 min, USA, Documentary
A 6-year-old boy with autism is seen through his twin sister’s eyes.
Dir. Joel Simon
2012, 7 min, UK, Narrative
Two toys made at a factory are thrown out, and together attempt to be put on a store shelf.
Dir. Cássio Pereira dos Santos
2014, 16 min, Brazil, Narrative
A teen with Down syndrome visits the sea for the first time.
THE MOBILE STRIPPER
Dir. Shirlyn Wong
2104, 14 min, USA, Narrative
What begins as a ride to the gas station by a man with Parkinson’s develops into an unforeseen adventure.
Dir. Karim Ayari
2013, 12 min, USA, Narrative
Julius meets with his psychologist after what he considered to be a disastrous first date due to his involuntary tics.
Dir. Heidi Latsky
2015, 14 min, USA, Documentary
An illuminating and moving close-up of a diverse group of performers of Heidi Latsky Dance.
Dir. Wayne de Lange & Sven Harding
2014, 5 min, USA, Documentary
Following a cycling accident which left him paralysed, Pieter du Preez becomes the first ever C6 quadriplegic to complete an Iron Man triathlon.
Dir. Pedro Solís García
2013, 11 min, Spain, Narrative
María’s routine at school is altered by the arrival of a child who soon becomes her best friend.
Dir. Stephen de Villiers
2014, 12 min, USA, Documentary
A serendipitous encounter between a young girl and a boy with superhero aspirations.
Dir. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette & André Turpin
2014, 10 min, Canada, Narrative
A nurse confronts his principles when he’s asked to aid two patients in assisted sex.
THE TALES OF THE GOLDEN SAND
Dir. Fred & Samuel Guillaume
2015, 23 min, France, Narrative
The mythical tale of the sweet town of Merryville, where an unexpected intruder disrupts the daily calm.
WELCOME TO THE LAST BOOKSTORE
Dir. Chad Howitt
2015, 11 min, USA, Documentary
A day in the life of a bookstore owner—a father, husband, small business owner, and paraplegic—showing the store’s magnetic appeal to the community.