In Philly, ‘ReelAbilities’ film festival focuses on life with disabilities

    A weeklong Philadelphia film festival “ReelAbilities,” which focuses on disabilities in unusual ways, gets underway Sunday.

    Can you overcome the isolation of having a mental illness? How do you date as a severely disabled teen? Can a man with cerebral palsy climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park?

    The films included in this year’s “ReelAbilities” festival address many different issues — with the unifying theme of living with disabilities. The festival is organized by the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia.

    Last year’s inaugural festival made a big impact, according to Sherrie Eisman of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia.

    “A number of people told us after seeing films and hearing the post-film discussions that they will never think about people with disabilities the same way,” she said. “And, to me, that made the festival valuable.”

    Eisman says the festival includes several screenings and discussions in area schools — to get kids and teachers to think about that it means to have a disability.

    “We want the students, and also the teachers, to gain a better appreciation — or even gain an appreciation of what it’s like to to go to school if you have a disability,” she explained. “Some of these kids in school might never have met another kid with a disability, so we think it’s really impactful.”

    The film festival opens with a screening of “Ocean Heaven” at the Painted Bride. The film is about a father trying to teach life skills to his son who has autism. It will be followed by a discussion led by local author Rachel Simon.

    The festival will include several local productions. Among them, “OC87” by Bud Clayman and Glenn Holsten  deals with obsessive compulsive disorder.

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