The ReelAbilities Film Festival has unveiled its full lineup of films and events for the second annual fest in Los Angeles (the New York edition launched in 2007). ReelAbilities Los Angeles runs October 25-27 at Universal Cinema AMC at CityWalk Hollywood.
The three-day festival will showcase new and classic films, conversations, and artistic programs, with ten shorts and five features celebrating more than 10 different physical and intellectual disabilities and hailing from five different countries.
“Just as Los Angeles has doubled down on its commitment to accessibility and inclusion, the ReelAbilities Film Festival LA continues to build,” said Stephen David Simon, Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability. “In just its second year in LA it has evolved into a milestone for meaningful change in Hollywood and beyond.”
The fest will kick off with Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s critically acclaimed and box office breakout The Peanut Butter Falcon. The film, which made its premiere at SXSW, tells the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from a residential nursing home to follow his dream of attending the professional wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). As a nursing home employee Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) sets out to find him, Zak meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a small-time outlaw on the run who becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally during his journey. The film has become an indie hit, on track to making over $20 million at the box office. It has also surpassed The Farewell to become the #1 indie platform release of 2019.
The fest will close with the Los Angeles premiere of Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life. Critically acclaimed, the film is about the on and off-screen relationship between a beautiful actress (Jess Weixler) and her leading man (Adam Pearson), an actor living with a severe facial difference. ReelAbilities will also host a rare, special screening of Todd Browning’s 1932 groundbreaking cult classic Freaks. Based on the true-life experiences of circus sideshow performers of the 1930s, Browning’s once-banned tale of murder and madness under the big top has gone from being critically reviled and misnderstoood — much like its subjects.
Read the full lineup and watch the trailer for the fest below.
OPENING NIGHT FILM
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON
Directors: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
A modern Mark Twain style adventure story, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON tells the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, who runs away from a residential nursing home to follow his dream of attending the professional wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). A strange turn of events pairs him on the road with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a small time outlaw on the run, who becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a kind nursing home employee charged with Zak’s return, to join them on their journey. (Down syndrome)
CLOSING NIGHT FILM
CHAINED FOR LIFE
Directed by Aaron Schimberg
Concerning the on- and off-screen relationship between a beautiful actress (Jess Weixler) and her leading man (Adam Pearson), an actor living with a severe facial difference, CHAINED FOR LIFE is a spiritual cousin to the likes of Tod Browning, Werner Herzog, and David Lynch, weaving a hypnotic and surreal depiction of art and identity that challenges our preconceived notions of appearances and how film images influence the way we think and feel about those who are “other”. (Facial difference).
In this strange, unforgettable masterpiece of early American cinema, a circus’ beautiful trapeze artist plots with her strongman lover to steal the fortune of a fellow sideshow performer, a good-natured little person, by agreeing to marry him. Things take a turn for the genuinely horrific when their nefarious plot is discovered by the other “freaks” and they take violent revenge. Based on the true-life experiences of circus sideshow performers of the 1930s, Tod Browning’s once-banned tale of murder and madness under the big top has gone from being critically reviled and misnderstoood – much like its subjects – to taking its rightful and raging place as a seminal pop culture provocation, influencing everything from seventies punks on the Bowery to “American Horror Story” in the living room. (Multiple disabilities)
Director: Abel Goldfarb
Ian uses a wheelchair. All he wants is to make friends, but discrimination keeps him away from the playground. (Wheelchair user)
SHAKESPEARE IN TOKYO
Directed by Genevieve Clay-Smith
A Shakespeare fan with Down syndrome sets off on a solo adventure to discover Tokyo and to prove his independence. (Down syndrome)
MAPPING THE DISABILITY TRAP
Directed by Jason Dasilva
Filmmaker Jason DaSilva presents a healthcare crisis as he tries to be closer to his son who lives 2,000 miles away. (multiple disabilities)
ON THE SPECTRUM
Directed by Yuval Shafferman
Three roommates in their twenties, all on the autism spectrum, share an apartment while learning to contend with the world around them.(autism)
Directed by Erika Davis-Marsh
A young dancer struggles with her identity and growing up hearing in a deaf family. (deafness)
Directed by Harald Zwart
A teenage girl living in a post-apocalyptic world struggles with the new reality she lives in, along with unreasonable parents. (Amputee)
Directed by Carl Hansen
A man struggles to reveal to his girlfriend that he’s been dating her through his robot. (Multiple disabilities)
Directed by Catriona Rubenis-Stevens and Rachel Handler
Inception meets Groundhog Day as Alice’s friends begin to disappear and she must choose between constantly reliving the same nightmare or vanishing into the unknown. (Amputee)
Directed by Shaina Kaur Ghuraia
In the near future, artificially intelligent robots, otherwise known as human helpers, are a regular part of life. However, they’re not very inclusive. Dr. Rachel Hubbert and her assistant Tony have made it their mission to make them not ableist. (Wheelchair user)
SUICIDE: THE RIPPLE EFFECT
Directed by Kevin Hines and Greg Dicharry
At age 19, Kevin Hines attempted to take his own life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Seventeen years later, he still struggles with many of the same symptoms that led him to attempt suicide, but he is on a mission to use his story to help others stay alive. (Mental health)
THE DRUMMER & THE KEEPER
Directed by Nick Kelly
Gabriel is a drummer in a promising band, desperate to hide his bipolar diagnosis from his exasperated band mates. At a therapeutic mixed-ability soccer game he’s obliged to attend, Gabriel meets Christopher, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, and the two are forced to “make friends.” (Asperger’s syndrome, bipolar disorder)
Directed by Amanda Lukoff
A purposeful look into the long-reaching history and lasting implications of the word “retard(ed)” and current attitudes and perceptions about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through the personal narrative of four sibling stories and first-person accounts of self-advocates, we get an intimate and nuanced perspective of the challenges and triumphs of people living with an intellectual disability. The R-Word is an unflinching, heartwarming, humorous, and hopeful journey through our shared human experience.
I’ll Go On: Mental Health, Disability & Resiliency
Mental health illnesses are common in the United States, yet many people are not receiving services. This panel will examine why so many people are affected by mental health illnesses, why there is so much stigma and the connection between mental health and resiliency. It will also shed light on the connection between the mental health community and the disability community.
The Revolution Will Be Posted: Disability in the Age of Social Media
In a digital age, social media has a significant impact on the way issues are framed. This panel will examine the footprint of the disability community in social media. It will examine how social media can be used to highlight issues, create awareness, and foster more inclusion.
Disability Authenticity on Screen: Why People with Disabilities Should be Seen in Authentic and Non-descript Roles
Panel sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation
Should a person with a disability play a person with a disability or should someone without a disability play someone with a disability? Is it all just acting?
This provocative discussion will focus on why authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and television is socially and financially significant. It will also look at the importance of non-descript roles on screen (both big and small) and why actors with disabilities should have the opportunities afforded to those in the non-disabled community.