Abling the differently-abled through celluloid

AbilityFest-2005 to screen over 80 handpicked films on disability at Anand

Sudhish Kamath

CHENNAI: The curtains for the India International Disability Film Festival, AbilityFest 2005, organised by the Ability Foundation, will go up at Anand theatre at 6.30 p.m. on Thursday.

The city will be able to get a glimpse into the world of the disabled through films. Able to learn to be sensitive and understand them better. And, able to push for an inclusive society.

Members of the festival committee Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Jaya Bachchan, Nandita Das, Rajiv Menon, Mani Ratnam and Revathy, Vice-Chairperson of the festival will participate.

The inaugural film, `Jumping over puddles again' (Czechoslovakian) directed by Karel Kachyna, will be screened at 7.45 p.m. The film is about a horse-trainer who has a tragedy and how his friends help him get back to the horses.

About 29 films from all around the world (including feature-length and shorts) and 53 one-minute films short-listed from the `60 seconds to Fame' contest, will be screened at Anand theatre between Thursday and Monday.

"Each film has been hand-picked by our festival director P.K. Nair, former director of the National Film Archive of India. We have chosen upbeat films which highlight the potential of the disabled rather than their problems," Jayshree Raveendran, Executive Director of Ability Foundation and Chairperson of the festival says. "The festival is directed at changing public mindset. People know about the problems faced by the disabled. But where do people see the potential?" They might not be able to do certain things. But they can do certain other things. There is no need for any sympathy or pity," she adds.

Jayshree is thrilled with the response from students. The organisers received 378 entries for their `60 Seconds to Fame' contest. "We had an interesting mix of students and technicians from all over India and even Nepal. The oldest participant is 70 years old and the youngest is still in school," says Revathy.

Revathy believes that the festival will go a long way in convincing filmmakers to be more sensitive while writing characters. "Not just filmmakers, we hope to attract actors and scriptwriters. That's why we have priced the delegate passes at Rs.250 for media and students and Rs.500 for the general public for the entire festival," she says.

"People with disabilities can enter free. This is for them, so we want them to come," adds Revathy.

There are very few theatres that are disabled-friendly. Anand theatre has a ramp, to make it easy for people with disabilities.

"People with disabilities like to enjoy a movie too. But by and large, the portrayal of people with disabilities is stereotyped ... less said the better. There are very few films, we can count them with the fingers of the left hand," says Jayshree as she lists `Black,' `Koshish,' `Khamoshi,' and `Sparsh.'

"We are screening a Marathi film `Devrai' directed by Sumitra Bhave and `Wheelchair' directed by Tapan Sinha among other Indian shorts and documentaries," says Revathy. "We have a Sri Lankan film `Little Angel' by Soma Dissanayake and even an Akira Kurasawa film `Dodeskaden.' All films will have subtitles for the hearing impaired."

The festival will feature a workshop on `Media and Disability' at the IMAGE Conference Hall, MRC Nagar, at 10.30 a.m. on Monday.

For registrations, call 2441 3013 and 2445 2400.

The inaugural ceremony of the festival to be compered by Suhasini Mani Ratnam will be telecast live on Doordarshan.

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