People with special needs have become more active than ever in telling their own stories in recent years, and the world has begun to take notice. These visions by and for people coping with various challenges will be examined at SHEKEL’s fifth Reframing Reality Film Festival, which runs from May 28 to 31 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
Reframing Reality is an international festival that challenges the concept of disability with films from all over the world, workshops, VR experiences and more. (Full disclosure: I served as an adviser to the festival.) SHEKEL is an organization that provides housing, employment and leisure activities for more than 8,000 Israelis with special needs that include learning, physical and intellectual disabilities, autism and other issues.
Clara Feldman, the CEO of SHEKEL, says, “SHEKEL is about meeting and understanding disability differently, from a perspective of ability, empowerment and inclusion. The films that make up the Reframing Reality film festival vary greatly, as do people with disabilities. The films are fun, thought-provoking and intimate, but above all they are about the power of people with disabilities to make a difference to the world around them. I believe the day will come when such a film festival will be redundant because people with disabilities will no longer be defined as ‘weak,’ ‘different’ or ‘other.’ Once that happens, we will begin to see the true abilities of people with disabilities expressed all around us. That will be a great day, not just for people with disabilities but for Israeli society as a whole.”
The films will cost only NIS 10 per ticket and, for the first time since this festival began, there is an elevator that goes from Derech Hebron to the Cinematheque entrance. One lucky viewer will win a trip for two to Hong Kong, courtesy of one of the festival sponsors, Cathay Pacific.
A number of the films will feature panel discussions and lectures by academics on the issues they raise.
The opening-night movie will be Ephraim Kishon’s The Blaumich Canal, to mark this Israeli classic’s 50th anniversary. The satirical comedy tells the story of a psychiatric patient who escapes his locked ward, grabs a drill and starts tearing up the streets of Tel Aviv and wreaking havoc as City Hall scrambles to cover up the chaos rather than solving the problem.
Among the feature films will be the Israeli premiere of Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck, starring Julianne Moore, which tells the story of two children in different eras coping with challenges; Joachim Dollhopf and Evi Goldbrunner’s At Eye Level, about a boy who learns that his biological father is a dwarf; Len Collin’s Sanctuary, about two people with intellectual disabilities who fall in love; Aisling Walsh’s Maudie, which stars Sally Hawkins as the disabled, self-taught artist Maud Lewis; Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, about a rodeo rider who has to take stock of his life after suffering a head injury; and Naomi Kawase’s An, about an elderly woman with leprosy who wants to share her recipe for sweet sauce with a restaurant owner.
The documentaries will include Roger Ross Williams’s Oscar-nominated Life, Animated, about parents who use characters from Disney films to help communicate with their son, who is on the autism spectrum; Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman’s Muhi: Generally Temporary, about a disabled boy from the Gaza Strip who has been living in an Israeli hospital for years with his grandfather; and Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s Notes on Blindness, which tells the story of theologian John Hall who, from 1983-1986, recorded a series of audio diaries documenting his descent into blindness. The Notes on Blindness screening will be preceded by a musical performance by those who live in residences run by the Feuerstein Institute.
The new award-winning Israeli television series On the Spectrum from YES, about three young adults on the autism spectrum sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv, will be screened. There will also be a program of movies by film school students.
The festival will feature a number of Virtual Reality exhibits. The Machine to Be Another is a workshop created by the international, interdisciplinary collective BeAnotherLab. Participants will be able to engage with technology developed by the group to explore immersive experiences of the body and to see, touch and interact with the world from the perspective of another person. There will be a free VR complex at the Cinematheque that will link to all the VR films presented at the festival.
Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, a festival sponsor, and Roni Goder will present I to Eye, films produced in an incubator for deaf filmmakers.
The festival’s other sponsors include the Jerusalem Foundation, the Shalem Fund, the American Center Jerusalem, Mobileye, Bank Hapoalim, Cathay Pacific, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, the Reel Abilities Film Festival, Lev Cinemas, the Jerusalem Municipality, Israel Association for Community Communications and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The film festival runs from May 28 to 31 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. For a list of the full program and to order tickets: http://www.jer-cin.org.il/en/lobby/reframing-reality-5. Those with wheelchairs are asked to contact Chava at 050- 882-2272 or Ada at 050-574-1315.