These movies will inspire like none other, but don’t expect any gut-wrenching car chases, beautiful actors in sexy outfits, or special effects created by computer-generated imagery. The ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival will bring touching documentaries, narratives, and shorts about regular people with disabilities to three Queens locations this weekend. The schedule follows.
On Saturday, March 12, the Queens Historical Society will present The Voice of the Voiceless, a silent film that follows a deaf Mexican woman who is brought to New York City under the pretense that she’s won a scholarship to a sign-language school.
Upon arrival, she discovers that she is actually a hostage and she has to sell paper towels on the subway to make money for her kidnappers. The director, Maximón Monihan, will participate in a Q&A session afterwards. On Sunday, March 13, the Flushing museum will show A Blind Hero: The Love of Otto Weidt, a docudrama based on the true story of a vision-impaired Berlin brushmaker who protected his blind, deaf, and Jewish employees from being sent to concentration camps during World War II. Again, director Kai Christensen will be on hand.
Meanwhile over at the Museum of the Moving Image, That Which Is Possible will screen on March 12. Director Michael Gitlin, who will be present, spent two years videotaping musicians, painters, sculptors, and writers who share an art space at Creedmoor, a psychiatric facility in Queens Village. Tender at times while harsh at others, the work argues that creative action can be a humane and holistic approach to treating mental illness.
Later that day, Happy 40th will show with director Madoka Raine in person. This feature depicts three female friends who join forces to celebrate the birthday of another friend, who became a wheelchair-bound recluse after an auto accident.
The next day, March 13, the Astoria museum will put on Margarita, with a Straw.
The director, Shonali Bose, will watch and discuss this piece about a wheelchair-reliant teenage girl with cerebral palsy in India. She is accepted to New York University and moves to Manhattan, where she starts to explore her new life and its liberal sexualities. Then, director Terry McMahon will join those present for Patrick’s Day, a love story about a young man with schizophrenia who romances a suicidal stewardess.
Also on March 13, the Central Queens Y will display the four-minute short, Bumblebees, which tells the story of Vance, an autistic child who defies all medical predictions to learn how to walk and speak. Then he takes on a new challenge: dating. The afternoon will include Good Beer, a seven-minute short about dating online, and 2E: Twice Exceptional, a 54-minute documentary on coming to terms with learning disabilities featuring interviews with students, parents, teachers, psychologists, and therapists.
The following day at noon, March 14, the Forest Hills venue will screen Marina’s Ocean (14 minutes), about a teenager with Down Syndrome who visits the ocean for the first time; I Don’t Care (14 minutes), about a pregnant woman who learns that she might be carrying a baby with Down Syndrome; Still Running (five minutes), a documentary about Pieter du Preez, who is paralyzed by a cycling accident, but still becomes the first C-6 quadriplegic to complete an Iron Man triathlon; Take Me (10 minutes), a narrative about a nurse who is asked to help two patients have sexual relations; and Bumblebees.