On December 3rd, Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery joined other venues across the country in hosting one of the first film festivals of its kind.
The Disability Film Festival Day coincided with The International Day of Disabled People and showcased the work of disabled filmmakers. DASH, the UK’s leading disability Arts and Media organisation and charity, were the main organisers of the event which also gained support and funding from Screen WM, the Media Archive for Central England, Oska Bright and the BBC.
The venues were scheduled to include four screenings, all of which were subtitled. The first screening began at midday with the best of Oska Bright including a second screening with an audio description. Oska Bright is a learning disability festival exhibiting films made by people with learning difficulties. The films chosen included The Ravens Tale by Coventry’s own production group The Shystershadows.
The second screening included the first national screening of UKFC’s funded disability project Magic Hour which showed several short films from the UK and around the world. These included The Beaten, written and directed by Simon Mckeown and starring the legendary British disabled actor and comic Liz Carr, and The White Wall, an animation written and directed by Sanchita Islam about a girl who doesn’t fit in.
The third screening was the 1986 BBC film Raspberry Ripple, produced by Ruth Caleb and starring Faye Dunaway and John Gordon Sinclair, about a wheelchair bound man who dreams of American gangster movies.
For the final selection of films, the Herbert Gallery chose to exhibit the work by media students from Hereward College, a specialist college for learners with complex support requirements. Hereward Hour introduced a new generation of creative film makers. Organiser of the Herbert Gallery disability film festival, Jack Shuttleworth, said: “Hereward College expressed some interesting dialogue in their work and it is interesting to see work about disability informed by a personal experience of disability.”
Other venues showcased archive footage from the Media Archive for Central England featuring The Leicester Cripples Guild of the 1920’s and a short film about the shortest woman in the world who lived in Bromsgrove.
DASH, Disability Artists in Shropshire, has been running art projects since 1996 and became a registered charity in 2001. It works alongside the Social Model of Disability and believes and practices in equal opportunities for everyone. Their aim is to promote and support disabled artists and disabled people interested in the arts by running events, projects and workshops which include the whole community.
Producer and curator of the Disability Film Festival Day Dr. Paul Darke has been working for DASH and similar disability projects for a long time. He said: “I started the Wolverhampton Disability Film Festival a few years ago and felt it needed a more national identity. We at DASH are grateful to all of the 23 participating venues including a link up with the Nepal Spinal Injuries Association near the base of Everest. It’s a lifetime’s work as I also did my PhD on Disability & Cinema and I am disabled myself.”
He added: “The aim for this project is to get material out there and to inspire other disabled film makers to get involved. It also gives existing film makers the chance to showcase their work and give audiences the chance to see something they wouldn’t usually watch.”
Paul and other organisers are hoping that the festival attracts more venues and film submissions as DASH is constantly looking for more material to include in next years Disability Film Festival Day which is already in the making.