AbilityFEST 2013, India’s premier International Disability Film Festival, brings a host of films by and about people with disabilities from around the world, from September 23 to 26

Get ready to watch some poignant cinema. AbilityFEST 2013, India’s premier International Disability Film Festival is back with a rich fare of films from around the world by and about people with disabilities. The Fest, to be held from September 23 to 26 at Sathyam Cinemas in the city, will also screen several audio described films.

Over the years, this festival has put Chennai on the map of international disability film festivals, and has seen immense local response too. Last year’s AbilityFest had a full house for every screening — over 4000 people viewed these films in all. “What was beautiful was the composition of the audience — there were people from all walks of life; people with and without disabilities; of all age groups; people who appreciate aesthetically-made sensitive films. Sensitisation therefore happens automatically,” says Jayshree Raveendran, founder, Ability Foundation, the organisers of AbilityFEST.

“Cinema is a powerful medium that can influence people, create awareness, and clear misconceptions. The motive of AbilityFEST is to sensitise people about disability and bring out the world of disabled persons from their perspective. It is high time that the potential of persons with disabilities is seen the right way, same as any person... with all the plus and minus points,” says actor-director Revathy, the festival’s vice chairperson.

The actor, who has just completed her work for Shonali Bose’s Hindi film, Margarita with a straw, adds, “In the last four-five years, young film makers in particular have come up with some wonderful, well-researched movies featuring disability, such as Mozhi, Black, Deiva Thirumagal, Beautiful, and many others. These films, with their accurate detailing and brilliant portrayals don’t paint disability as a tragedy, but show it as a part of life. And that is what disability is — a fact that needn’t come in the way of life or career.”

“For AbilityFEST 2013, we chose films from among those screened at the world’s top disability film festivals, such as at London, Munich, Moscow and Melbourne,” says P.K. Nair, founder and former-director of the National Film Archive of India, and the curator of AbilityFest 2013.

Nair reckons that Indian cinema has come a long way since a few decades ago, when there was insensitive comic portrayals of disabled persons. “Though the numbers are less, the few filmmakers who take up disability issues are doing a great and sensitive job with their style and treatment. They feature disabled persons as central characters in their movies — especially in South Indian cinema. This is very encouraging,” he says.

To flip the coin, shouldn’t mainstream films be made more accessible to the disabled, with audio descriptions for the hearing-impaired, and cinema halls made barrier-free for the disabled? “This can only be done by creating awareness on the numerous disabled people out there, which will percolate to those in the film industry; such awareness could provoke the rest of society into making the world accessible to the disabled”, he says. AbilityFEST could do just that.

Entry is free and is on first-come-first-served basis. Passes can be obtained at the venue. For free passes call 89396 75544.

Fest Watch

September 23

4 p.m: All India premiere of Ayodhya Kumar’s Telugu film Minugurulu.

7 p.m: Inaugural function followed by Iranian film Gold And Copper

September 24

4 p.m: Award-winning Malayalam film Beautiful directed by V.K. Prakash, based filmed on a paraplegic person’s encounters in life. This film was received well both at the box office and at film festivals.

7 p.m: Indelible directed by Pavitra Chalam, which looks at the indomitable spirit of seven people with Down Syndrome and their families, followed by an interaction with Dr. Surekha Ramachandran, President of The Down Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu, Pavitra Chalam, and the magnificent seven featured in the film; Screening of Fly Away (US).

September 25

4 p.m: The first public screening of the acclaimed Tamil film Haridas with audio description for the visually impaired

7.p.m: Panel discussion ‘Disability – combining sensitivity and commercial sensibilities’, with G.N.R. Kumaravelan, the director of Haridas, Radha Mohan, the director of Mozhi and A.L. Vijay, the director of Deiva Thirumagal; Screening of I'm Deaf And I didn't Know It (France).

September 26

4 p.m: Alzheimer (Iran);

7.p.m: Concluding fete, Presentation of awards to the winners of the one minute film competition ‘60 seconds to fame!’; Screening of Intouchables (highly-acclaimed awarded French blockbuster)