Four injured Iraq War veterans set out to become Olympians. A television star and lothario suffers a brain injury and tries to put his life back together again. A group of wheelchair-bound women redefine standards of beauty. Two singles have a crush on each other; both are deaf, but neither knows of the other's hearing impairment.
These films by, about and for people with disabilities show perseverance and triumph over a world that categorizes them as less-than due to their physical and/or mental handicaps. However, when watching these films, you don't see people living with disabilities at all. You see people with real abilities -- or better yet, ReelAbilities.
The ReelAbilities: Houston Disabilities Film Festival 2013 starts today, February 6, and lasts until February 13. Fifteen documentary, short and full-length movies will be shown, starting with an opening night screening of Ocean Heaven, the story of a father's unconditional love for his autistic son, at Asia Society Texas Center. Screening locations include the Houston Public Library, the Talento Bilingue de Houston and Memorial Hermann Southwest, among others.
According to festival co-chair Eric J. Mayer, ReelAbilities was started in New York in 2007. "[The] mission of the festival is to use film to both educate and change perceptions about the potential of individuals with disabilities," Mayer wrote to us in an email. "Each of the movies screened during the festival will feature an interactive event to foster dialogue between the audience and filmmaker, parents, professionals or persons with disabilities, to explore the particular subjects depicted in the film."
This will be the festival's first year in Houston. Houston is the sixth city chosen overall to participate in the 5-year-old festival. ReelAbilities will be paired with two art exhibitions: one that has been on view at One Allen Center since January 25, and the other, by Alyssa Miller, which will open in tandem with the screening of Warrior Champions at the HPL on Thursday, February 7. "The city-wide film and arts festival is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of individuals with various disabilities," Mayer said.
Special guests will include Enrique Oliu, star of the documentary Henry O. Oliu is a radio analyst for the Tampa Bays baseball team, who has been blind since birth. Courtney Bent, a photographer who dedicates her time and talent in the movie Shooting Beauty, will be present, as well.
Ultimately, Mayer hopes that the festival will give audiences "a better understanding of those with different abilities."
To learn more about the ReelAbilities film festival and to view the complete schedule, visit houston.reelabilities.org.