Throughout the weekend, London’s 8th International Disability Film Festival hosted three collections of disability-themed short films, each program totaling roughly 90 minutes. The third collection, which screened on Sunday, contained eight short films made over the past five years: Mercury Stole My Fire (Dir. Anitra Nelson), Rahidian Gutterfish (Dir. Ben Otos), I Ain’t Looking for Your Sympathy (Dir. Twiz Evans), Dancing in a Different Space (Dir. Sally Pearce), The Wrong Trainers (Dir. Kez Margrie), Soluna (Dir. Luke Jacobs, Jo Shapland), Forbidden Acts (Dir. Todd Herman) and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen (Dir. Charlie Swinburne).
Despite the international moniker, only two of these films were produced outside of the UK (Mercury Stole My Fire – Australia and Forbidden Acts – USA) but more diverse is the films’ presentational methods that vary from interpretive dance to documentary to animation to experimental.
The standouts of the bunch are Forbidden Acts, The Wrong Trainers and I Ain’t Looking For Your Sympathy. Forbidden Acts – the most provocative and confrontational entry – combines the sexually explicit poetry of Leroy Moore, a disability activist born with Cerebral Palsy, and languid experimental imagery by Todd Herman. The film can be ordered online and more information about Moore can be accessed at his homepage .
Kez Margrie’s The Wrong Trainers takes an innovative approach to detailing the plights of pre-teen children struggling with disability, neglect and poverty by synching interviews with real children over animated interpretations of their situations. The only misstep in this otherwise supremely effective look at life with drug addicted and unemployed parents, overcrowded housing and rehabilitation centers is the film’s last minute indictment of the government that makes a heretofore uncalculated reproach against the British government in a bid to shed the light away from the neglectful parents themselves.
I Ain’t Looking for Your Sympathy is a Welsh documentary that originally aired on the BBC about the first disabled woman’s cabaret in Wales and gets its title from a song by blind then-19-year-old singer/songwriter Susan Hedges whose biography can be read at http://www.starnow.co.uk/susanhedges and a clip of her performing at 2007’s Matthew St Festival can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e49v6jXSeT4. The documentary contains a headstrong demand for social change, epitomized by the cabaret organizer who states “One day we may not be called disabled because society will no longer be disabling us and will just see us as impaired.”
Other notables include Soluna – a visual poem using interpretive dance and morphing shots of amoebic clouds and crashing waves to create a meditation on the sensation of vision – and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen – a BSL reworking of a classic Monty Python sketch that proves comedy can exist without sound, the entirety of which can be viewed here.