Monday, February 24, 2020

ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York Announces Official Lineup of 12th Annual Festival

Celebrating Stories of People with Disabilities through Film at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and Over 20 locations Throughout the City

Highlighting Themes of Inclusion, Accessibility, Authentic Casting and Responsible Representation

Tickets on Sale March 4th; Festival Runs March 31-April 6

NEW YORK (February 20, 2020) – The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, announces its full lineup of films for its 12th annual festival, which will run March 31 through April 6. A schedule of screenings and special events is below. Tickets go on sale March 4, and can be purchased at View the festival trailer here:

The 2020 ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York continues to raise the bar on accessibility and showcase talent from around the world dedicated to heighten awareness of the stories and artistic expressions of people with disabilities. The festival celebrates the diversity of our shared human experience through engaging films and events and encourages inclusion and responsible portrayals in cinema of people with disabilities, the most underrepresented minority in American media. As part of the ReelAbilities mission to deepen audience engagement with these topics, all screenings will be followed by conversations with filmmakers and other guests.

The 12th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York will take place at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, located at 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and at over 20 other venues across all five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester, making it the most geographically accessible festival. Some of this year’s prominent venues include the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Museum of the Moving Image, The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the IAC Building, in partnership with Vimeo.

In addition, the festival is supported by technology to make it exceptionally accommodating for those with disabilities of all kinds. All venues are fully accessible to mobility devices, and screenings and events include captioning, audio description, CART, ASL interpretation, braille materials, and more. This year ReelAbilities is partnering with The GalaPro app, which will provide audio description and closed captions to all audiences at all venues. GalaPro has provided audio description and closed captions to theatergoers on Broadway and across the U.S., and will now also deliver automated real-time audio description and captions (created by ReelAbilities) for all ReelAbilities films to users’ own mobile devices.

The festival’s Opening Night selection will be the New York premiere of Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli’s feature directorial debut, produced by Zeno Mountain Farm, “BEST SUMMER EVER,” which will make its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March. A wild, fresh, and exhilarating take on the beloved teen musical genre, the film tells the story of summer lovers separated by circumstance...or are they? The film is executive produced by a who’s who of Hollywood actors including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ted Danson, Amy Brenneman, and Mary Steenburgen. With nine original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities, this history-making film redefines the movie musical for a new generation. It will screen March 31, at 7 p.m. at the IAC Building, co-presented by Vimeo. Actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard are expected to attend. The ReelAbilities Spotlight Award will be given to actor Zack Gottsagen (“The Peanut Butter Falcon”), and the evening will include a performance by singer Maelyn Jarmon (winner of Season 16 of NBC’s “The Voice”).

Isaac Zablocki, director and co-founder of the festival, said, “We are witnessing a revolution in disability inclusion and depiction. From this year's submissions and the rise in TV and film projects that are including authentic casting, we are noting a dramatic sea change. The quality, quantity, and level of inclusivity of films is higher than we have ever seen before, and we are proud to continue our festival’s legacy of inclusion and representation."

Opening night will also highlight American Girl introducing its new doll, Joss Kendrick, a young surfer with hearing loss. To make the festival even more accessible, Uber, our official transportation sponsor for the second consecutive year, will provide rides to all filmmakers, guests, and talent from/to their screenings throughout New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, and provide free and discounted rides to ReelAbilities audiences, thanks to UBER-WAV.

The Closing Night film will be Javier Fesser’s award-winning Spanish language film “CHAMPIONS” (“Campeones”). This heartwarming comedy tells the story of Marco, a basketball coach with a bad attitude, who, after a traffic accident, is sentenced to community service and ordered by the court to train a team of players with disabilities who have never touched a ball before. Through their innocence, tenderness, and good humor, these champions teach Marco about the things that really matter in life. The film, which won multiple awards at the 33rd Annual Spanish Film Academy’s Goya Awards, including “Best Film,” will screen Tuesday, April 6, at 7 p.m. at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

Other highlights from the festival lineup include:

The world premiere of Brian Thomas’ igniting documentary “AMY’S VICTORY DANCE,” the story of a former professional dancer who is run over by a 15-ton New York City express bus and her triumphant path back to the stage after the near loss of her life and leg; the world premiere of Salome Chasnoff’s “CODE OF THE FREAKS,” a blistering critique of Hollywood’s representations of characters with disabilities; psychiatrist-turned-filmmaker Kenneth Paul Rosenberg’s “BEDLAM,” an eye-opening personal documentary about the mental health crisis in America;the world premiere of Ben Stamper’s “DON’T FOIL MY PLANS,” the story of a young man with autism who has a dream far bigger than his diagnosis; the New York premiere of Serbian director Raško Miljković’sdebut feature film, “THE WITCH HUNTERS,” a poignant tale about 10-year-old Jovan, who has cerebral palsy, and his imaginative world and adventurous friendship with his classmate Milica; Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang’s moving documentary “OUR TIME MACHINE,” which follows Shanghai artist Maleonn staging a play for his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s; Ric Burns’ thoughtful and deeply affecting documentary “OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE,” which explores the lifeand work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller, as he shares intimate details of hisbattles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted hiswork only decades after the fact; Kaveh Taherian and Andrew Richey's "25 PROSPECT STREET," a behind-the-screens look at the struggles and sparkle of the Prospector Theater – a non-profit movie theater with a mission of meaningful employment for people with disabilities; and the U.S. premiere of Tom Martin’s “KINETICS,” which follows the unlikely friendship between an exceptionally bright but bored student who finds release in parkour (free running) and a middle-aged teacher with early onset Parkinson's.

In addition, on March 26, ReelAbilities is proud to host a festival preview screening of Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham’s powerful documentary film “CRIP CAMP.” Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film, which is part of Barack and Michelle Obama’ Netflix slate, shows that seeing how the world could be can bring about real change. Steeped in the humor and music of the 1960s, “Crip Camp” explores the universal experience of summer camp awakenings that would transform lives and shape the future of the disability rights movement.

Yaara Kedem, associate director of the festival and director of the ReelAbilities International program, said,“The ReelAbilities films, conversations, and special events go beyond disability. The festival continues to work to promote the understanding of the social impact inclusion and accessibility have on everyone'sday-to-day lives and well-being. These connections are not just part of the conversation, but are the pillars of the society we live in, and the basis for creating a caring community that is strong, sustainable and forward-facing.”

In addition to film screenings, ReelAbilities also presents special collaborative programs such as art exhibits, performances, live music, comedy shows, workshops, panel discussions, and much more, creating a weeklong celebration of culture to be announced at a later date.


**OPENING NIGHT, RED CARPET GALA**Dir. Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli | US | 80 min. | Fiction
Sage and Anthony face the drama of high school after falling in love at a dance camp over the summer. An exhilarating musical featuring original songs and an integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities. Created by Zeno Mountain Farm. Special honoree Zack Gottsagen (“The Peanut Butter Falcon,” “Best Summer Ever”). Featuring a performance by Maelyn Jarmon (winner of “The Voice”).Tuesday, March 31 | 6 p.m. gala, 7 p.m. film | Vimeo, IAC Building
Additional screenings: Friday, April 3 | 2:30 p.m.| New York Public Library, 67th St.
Sunday, April 5 | 6 p.m.| JCC Harlem

**CLOSING NIGHT, RECEPTION**Dir. Javier Fesser | Spain | 119 min. | Fiction
Marco is a coach in Spain’s top basketball league. After he is involved in a car crash, he is forced to coach a basketball team of players with intellectual disabilities as community service. With good humor, the team teaches Marco what really matters.
Monday, April 6 | 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. film | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
Additional screenings:Friday, April 3 | 11 a.m.| Bronx Community College
Sunday April 5 | 3 p.m.| Cinema Arts Centre
Saturday, April 4 | 2 p.m.| New York Public Library, 67th St.

**FESTIVAL PREVIEW**Dir. Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht | US | 106 min. | Documentary
Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a summer camp for teens with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a movement.
Thursday, March 26 | 7 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

**SPOTLIGHT SCREENING**Dir. Ric Burns | US | 115 min. | Documentary
The riveting and profoundly moving life and work of Oliver Sacks, who redefined our 21st-century understanding of the brain and mind.
Wednesday, April 1 | 8:15 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“AMY’S VICTORY DANCE”Dir. Brian Thomas | US | 74 min. | Documentary
Professional dancer Amy Jordan is run over by an NYC bus. Her first thought is “Am I ever going to dance again?” Her second is “If I survive the night, there will be a victory dance.”
Thursday, April 2 | 4 p.m.| Lehman College
Sunday, April 5 | 7:30 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“BEDLAM”Dir. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg | US | 86 min. | Documentary
Through intimate stories of patients, families, and medical providers, “Bedlam” immerses audiences in the national crisis surrounding the need for better care of people with mental illness, and demands this critical situation be viewed through an intersectional lens.
Friday, April 3 | 7:30 p.m. | Maysles Documentary Center
Thursday, April 2 | 8 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
Saturday, April 4 | 4:30 p.m.| Museum of the Moving Image
Sunday, April 5 | 12 p.m. | Cinema Arts Centre

“CODE OF THE FREAKS”Dir. Salome Chasnoff | US | 68 min. | Documentary
Taking its title from Tod Browning’s classic film, this radical reframing of how characters with disabilities are represented looks at a century of Hollywood favorites with a fresh perspective. Disability activists imagine a cinematic landscape that takes people with disabilities seriously.
Wednesday, April 1 | 5 p.m. | St. John’s University - Queens
Wednesday, April 1 | 6:15 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
Friday, April 3 | 4 p.m. | NYU

“DON’T FOIL MY PLANS”Dir. Benjamin Stamper | US | 49 min. | Documentary
Justin, an artist with autism in his midtwenties, wants to pursue an independent life. But what appears simple on paper is not so easily realized. While learning social norms and professional etiquette, Justin learns to navigate an unpredictable future.
Wednesday, April 1 | 5 p.m.| St. John’s University - Staten Island
Thursday, April 2 | 12 p.m. | Bronx Community College
Thursday, April 2 | 7 p.m. | JCC of Mid-Westchester
Sunday, April 5 | 2:30 p.m.| Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“KINETICS”Dir. Tom Martin | UK | 51 min. | Fiction
After Rose is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she meets Lukas, a frustrated young man who finds his release through parkour. Together they embark on a journey of discovery and acceptance.
Wednesday, April 1 | 4 p.m.| Lehman College
Wednesday, April 1 | 5 p.m.| New York Public Library 67th St.
Thursday, April 2 | 6:15 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“OUR TIME MACHINE”Dir. Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang | China | 81 min. | Documentary
Maleonn is one of China’s most influential conceptual artists. When his father, the former director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Maleonn pours everything into an ambitious new theater project: “Papa’s Time Machine.”
Wednesday, April 1 | 7:30 p.m.| Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Atrium
Thursday, April 2 | 7 p.m.| Brooklyn Academy of Music
Saturday, April 4 | 2 p.m.| Museum of the Moving Image
Saturday, April 4 | 8:15 p.m.| Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“THE WITCH HUNTERS”Dir. Rasko Miljkovic | Serbia/Macedonia | 86 min. | Fiction
Ten-year-old Jovan’s world is shaken up by a new classmate, who invites him on a spectacular adventure. But in order to become a true hero, like those he daydreams of, Jovan must learn to accept himself and his life with cerebral palsy.
Thursday, April 2 | 4 p.m. | Lehman College
Sunday, April 5 | 12 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“25 PROSPECT STREET”Dir. Kaveh Taherian and Andrew Richey | US | 100 min. | Documentary
A look at the sparkle and struggles of the Prospector Theater—a nonprofit movie theater in Connecticut with a mission of meaningful employment for people with disabilities.
Wednesday, April 1 | 7 p.m. | BRIC (selections)
Friday, April 3 | 1 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

SHORT FILMS SCREENING SCHEDULEAdditional screening times and locations for short films are available at

“AUTISM: THE SEQUEL” Dir. Tricia Regan | US | 39 min. | Documentary
Five young adults on the spectrum navigate their early 20s. A sequel to “Autism: The Musical.”
Saturday, April 4 | 3 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

SHORTS 1:Saturday, April 4 | 1:30 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
“SOCK GUYS”Dir. Katie Turinski | US | 11 min. | Documentary
A peek inside a unique business owned and operated by a man with Down Syndrome and his father.

“TRAGICALLY DEAF”Dir. Maxx Corkindale | Australia | 3 min. | Fiction
Paul is having a great day. It’s a pity that the documentary crew following him doesn’t seem to see that.

“MOMENT TO MOMENT”Dir. Michael Attie | US | 13 min. | Documentary
Carl and Susan, husband and wife, scientist and artist, navigate the challenges of Carl’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

“BOLDLY GO”Dir. Christopher Cosgrove | Australia | 6 min. | Fiction
A young gay man is hiding a secret. When a long-term crush tries to seduce him at a party, he is forced to expose the truth.

“DEAF LOVE” Dir. Michelle Bertini Mal Garini | Italy | 15 min. | Fiction
On a journey to meet the woman he loves, Paolo ends up on a wild and mysterious island.

SHORTS 2:Saturday, April 4 | 4:30 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
“BUBE MAISES” Dir. Or Levy | Israel | 6 min. | Animation
A daughter uses postcards to re-create past moments for her mother, who is living with dementia.

“THE MAN OF THE TREES”Dir. Andrea Trivero | Italy | 19 min. | Documentary
The life story of Daniel Balimá, a horticulturist with a disability in Burkina Faso.

“FEELING THROUGH” Dir. Doug Roland | US | 18 min. | Fiction
While wandering around New York, 18-year-old Tereek encounters Artie, a deaf-blind man trying to get home.

“ANGEL’S MIRROR” Dir. Cheng Chao | China | 14 min. | Fiction
A group of young boys are fascinated by a girl who spends her days looking out the window.

Dir. Anne-Christine Plate | Germany | 5 min. | Animation
An animated inner monologue of a woman confronting her relationship with her son, who has a disability.

SHORTS 3:Saturday, April 4 | 6:30 p.m. | Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

“WHAT IT FEELS LIKE” Dir. Steven Fraser | UK | 3 min. | Documentary
Flipbook-style animation demonstrating the emotions of people who hear voices

“FORT IRWIN”Dir. Quinn Else | US | 11 min. | Fiction
To confront his trauma, an amputee veteran acts in a hyper-realistic military simulation.

“HOLE” Dir. Gil Goletski | US | 6 min. | Animation
Mo is an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Today, a hole started following them.

“REVEL IN YOUR BODY” Dir. Katherine Helen Fisher | US | 6 min. | Documentary
Experience the joy of flight with Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson.

“POSITIVE ALL THE WAY” Dir. David Ulich and Dr. Steven Ungerleider | US | 33 min. | Documentary
The story of Sir Philip Craven, former president of the International Paralympic Committee, who became a global leader for change.

About ReelAbilities Film Festival: New YorkReelAbilities Film Festival is the largest film festival in the world dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with disabilities. Founded in New York in 2007 by the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, the festival presents award-winning films by and about people with disabilities in multiple locations throughout the city. Post-screening discussions and other engaging programs bring communities together to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.

The New York festival is the launching pad for an international program and its selections run satellite ReelAbilities festivals in over 20 cities worldwide. Learn more at

About the Marlene Meyerson JCC ManhattanTogether with its community, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan creates opportunities for people to connect, grow, and learn within an ever-changing Jewish landscape. Located on 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the JCC is a vibrant non-profit community center on the Upper West Side. The cornerstone of progressive programming in Manhattan, the JCC serves over 55,000 people annually through 1,200 programs each season that educate, inspire, and transform participants' minds, bodies, and spirits. Since its inception, the JCC has been committed to serving the community by offering programs, classes, and events that reach beyond neighborhood boundaries, reaching people at all stages of their lives. Learn more at

ReelAbilities encourages inclusive language that acknowledges people's personal preferences.

We support:

- Person first language (a person with a disability, not a disabled person).

- Asking people for their preferences and if they require assistance.

- Creating an inclusive environment welcoming to people with and without disabilities.


ReelAbilities strives for inclusion of all people. All films are screened with open captions and all venues are wheelchair accessible. ASL interpretation, CART, Audio Description, and information in Braille are available upon advance request. Individuals needing accommodations to participate should contact the screening venue directly at least two weeks in advance of the event.

No comments:

Post a Comment