ReelAbilities Film Festival shines light on life with disabilities

Underrepresentation of disabled Americans in film and media is the focus of the city’s 10th annual ReelAbilities Film Festival.

The festival, running from March 8-14, promotes awareness by starring actors with real disabilities in each of its feature films. The authentic portrayals aim to disprove common misconceptions.

Opening Thursday at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, the weeklong event features 30 films being shown in over 30 locations throughout the New York City, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties.

The films are exclusive to the festival, which, following its week in New York, will travel to 20 cities across the U.S., Canada, and South America. Among the featured films is “Mad to Be Normal,” in which Elisabeth Moss stars alongside David Tennant, Gabriel Byrne, and Michael Gambon in the story of a controversial British psychologist who used LSD to treat mentally disturbed patients in the 1960s and 70s.

Festival co-founder Isaac Zablocki said ReelAbilities is “going all out” in honor of their 10th anniversary.

“There is a list of programs that we’ve put together that has gotten longer than ever,” said Zablocki.

Opening day’s Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 event encourages those with disabilities to be part of the film industry with training and workshops. Saturday will include a comedy night, and Monday the Fashion and Disability Panel: Reshaping the Silhouette.

“We try to make sure there’s a nice array of films and disabilities represented, and we try to expand into new disabilities every year,” said Zablocki.

New this year are two films — “Scaffolding” and the short “Partially Compensated” — which tackle the struggle of having a learning disability.

“Everybody out here has a connection to the disability world, whether they know it or not,” said Zablocki. “If not a family member than a friend. This is 20% of our community.”

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