"About 20 percent of American’s have some sort of disability," notes Kristy Trautmann, head of the
, which focuses on improving the lives of people with disabilities, as well as women and girls. "It’s the only minority group that any of us could join at any time through illness or accident. And yet many people were raised to avoid people with disabilities. Children are chastened not to stare, not to ask questions. In fact, if they were honest many adults would admit that they aren’t sure how to approach a person with a disability – they don’t know what language is appropriate or how to act, and they don’t want to offend."
That's why FISA has teamed with JFilm
, whose annual Jewish Film Festival aims to promote diversity and inclusion, to bring ReelAbilities
to Pittsburgh for the first time. Pop City is a media sponsor. The Oct. 26-29 film festival (begun in New York in 2007) aims to "change perceptions and celebrate the many contributions of people with disabilities to our society," Trautmann says.
"It’s all about looking and seeing and coming to better understand someone else’s experience," Trautmann adds.
Says Kathryn Spitz Cohan, JFilm executive director: "While television shows have recently added more characters with disabilities … it is in these films that we really get a deeper look into the lives of individuals with disabilities."
Each film is accompanied by local programming, including speakers, panel discussions, art exhibits. In Jet Li's first dramatic role, in "Ocean Heaven," he plays a single father of a son with autism; the ReelAbilities showing of this movie concludes with a talk on community and social capital by Al Condeluci, head of Community Living and Support Services, and a reception. A program of short films includes guided tours of the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratory, while the documentary "Crooked Beauty" is followed by story telling and performance art emceed by stand-up comedian Marion Grodin.
Says Trautmann: "There are a lot of challenges still facing people with disabilities: stigma, lack of accessible housing, a shortage of services to help individuals live in the community, difficulty finding employment. We hope that the festival will help people see that inclusion of people with disabilities is an important issue for our whole community. It’s about justice, not about charity."
For more information, go to the ReelAbilities website
, call 412-992-5203 or email here
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Kristy Trautmann, FISA Foundation; Kathryn Spitz Cohan, JFilm