Feb 3, 2023 - Things to Do

ReelAbilities festival returns in person, celebrates 10 years

Photo of response cards complimenting a film.

Response cards from the 2020 festival. Photo courtesy of ReelAbilities

ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival is back in person for the first time since 2020.

Why it matters: ReelAbilities Houston's mission is to raise awareness for the disability community, which was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and continues to face discrimination.

  • Of note: "Disabled" is a broad term that can apply to a wide range of physical and mental conditions — both visible and invisible — that an individual may have.

Driving the news: The monthlong festival, which features mostly free events ranging from film screenings to panel discussions to an art exhibit, is celebrating its 10th anniversary, starting with a kickoff event Sunday.

  • Organizers expect 2,000 people to attend this year.

Between the lines: The festival aims to implement best practices and lead by example by showing what it looks like to be inclusive and considerate of people with different disabilities, according to Michael McCulloch and Diana Codispoti, the festival co-chairs.

  • Films will be audio-described and closed-captioned.
  • An interpreter will be available for the deaf community at speaker events.
  • People will be around to describe the art for people who are blind.
  • Venues are selected based on how accessible they are, such as whether the restrooms are accessible for people with wheelchairs.
  • The festival has ramps to temporarily modify a space if needed.
  • Some events will also be available virtually, for community members who are not ready to attend in person.

What they're saying: "[The festival] is great for anybody who wants to learn more about the community of people with disabilities, since it is such a large community," Codispoti said.

Details: The festival is produced by the Jewish Family Service Houston Alexander Institute for Inclusion in collaboration with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities.

Here are some of the key events for the festival, which runs through Feb. 23:

  • ReelArt Crawl on Feb. 16 will feature artist John Bramblitt, known as the No. 1 blind painter in the world, doing a live painting and art from resident artists at Sabine Street Studios.
  • "Amazing Grace," a documentary about a musician with a rare polio-like disease will be screened on Feb. 19.
  • "Poppy," a film about a young woman with Down syndrome set on becoming a motor mechanic, will be featured on Feb. 22.
  • ReelMusic on Feb. 23 will showcase jazz and rock performances by musicians with disabilities.

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