Now in its fourteenth year, the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival helps dispel misperceptions about disability by screening films that portray people with disabilities living full lives. Film entries should avoid stereotypical representations. Instead, the festival seeks imaginative, multifaceted portrayals of people with disabilities.
Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?
William Greer: Cinema Touching Disability gives filmmakers a chance to show their films about and starring people who have disabilities. We focus on films that have a positive and accurate representation of disability. cinema Touching Disability puts a central focus on these films, and events surrounding them.
We featured, for instance, an interview with Dr Temple Grandin, the most famous person in the world with Autism the year we featured a dramatic biography about her. We had a guest appearance by Jessica Cox, the only licensed armless pilot in the world when we featured “Right Footed”, the documentary about her. We had a live demonstration of American Sign language (ASL) poetry when we featured “Deaf Jam”, a documentary about ASL poets who compete alongside spoken word poets in 2016.
MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?
WG: This year we are featuring films that focus on service animals and animals with disabilities. we will have live service dogs at the theater before the festival. People will have an opportunity to see the winners of our short film competition, the feature film and a chance to meet service dogs.
MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?
WG: The films need to have an accurate, interesting and compelling story about disability. We feature films that dispel common misperceptions about disability, entertain the audience and are informative.
The films must not have stereotypical representations about disability and show honest and accurate portrayals of people who have disabilities.
MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?
WG: Some films definitely do not get a fair shake. There would not be film festivals that specialize in certain genres, such as science fiction, horror, asian and disability if all of these films had an equal chance at festivals. There are so many films being made that the sheer number of them makes it impossible for every film to have an equal opportunity.
In the case of disability there is simply a lack of interest in the subject. Many people do not think disability films will be either interesting or entertaining. This, combined with the history of bad representation of disability and people who have disabilities, makes it very hard for disability films to gain an equal opportunity.
MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?
WG: We are motivated by the desire to give people with disabilities equal opportunities and to raise awareness about disability. Our organization is a non-profit dedicated to promoting equal civil and social rights of people with disabilities, so the festival is a natural outgrowth of this.
MT: How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?
WG: Outstanding. Tracking and receiving the submissions has been incredibly easy. The submission process is also improving steadily.
MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?
WG: I hope to see the festival expand to include an additional evening and the audience to grow enough to require a larger theater.
MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?
WG: That is a difficult question to answer because I have seen so many films. I might have seen “The Empire Strikes Back” the most times because I was so young when I first saw it. This is an excellent film that I have had an opportunity to see for 27 years. I have had many chances to see it, in other words.
MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?
WG: An interesting, thought provoking and engaging story.
MT: How is the film scene in your city?
WG: Incredible. Experimental, international and mainstream films are regularly featured at many theaters here.
About the interviewee: I became legally blind at the age of 17 as the result of an open skull wound. Since then I graduated from college worked in a variety of political campaigns, gained a job at a non-profit organization and started running marathons.
I created a film festival as one of the fund raising projects for the disability advocacy organization I work for. The festival has grown to take place on multiple evenings, include an international short film competition and have stars of our feature films visit as speakers.
I also oversee various other fund raising events, ranging from hand cycle marathons to participation in annual fun runs.
For recreation I run in marathons. The 15 I have run so far include the 2013 Boston marathon and the Prickly Pear, a 30 mile ultra marathon.
Cinema Touching Disability (www.ctdfilmfest.org)
Cinema Touching Disability is designed to raise awareness of and dispel common misperceptions about disability. This festival, which started in 2004, features films, has guest speakers and often has special events.
The events range from a demonstration of martial arts by a team of people with disabilities. This demonstration included Jessica Cox, the only armless pilot in the world, since she also holds two black belts in Tae Kwan do. Another special event featured a demonstration of people in wheelchairs demonstrating mobility dancing, which happened before a film about wheelchair dancers.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.