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Oscar-nominated actor and activist Mark Ruffalo will kick off this year’s 2016 ReelAbilities Film Festival in New York, offering opening remarks and an introduction to opening-night film Margarita, With a Straw on Thursday, March 10.

Dedicated to presenting films made by and about people with disabilities, this year’s 8th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival will take place in over 40 accessible venues across New York including JCC Manhattan, Lincoln Center, Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of the Moving Image, marking the largest edition of the festival to date.

A nationwide tour of the festival will follow the New York festival which runs March 10-16. Beyond the first rate film lineup, all screenings are followed by engaging conversations with filmmakers and other guests, as well as accompanied by dance, music, theater, author talks, and art exhibits that enhance the inclusive mission and message of the festival.

Margarita, With a Straw

The Red Carpet Opening night on Thursday, March 10, will feature welcoming remarks from the 3-time Academy Award nominated actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, followed by the NY premiere of the award-winning feature Margarita, With A Straw, (pictured above) followed by a conversation with director Shonali Bose and an opening night reception. Based on a true story, the film is a funky, stereotype-busting coming-of-age tale about a Punjabi teenage girl with cerebral palsy who comes to New York to pursue her dreams of writing and is opened to the world of possibilities that the city has to offer.

Opening night will also include a special performance by Robert Ariza and other cast members from Broadway’s latest Deaf West Theatre’s revival of the hit musical: Spring Awakening. This show was groundbreaking for Broadway and paved the way for inclusion and accessibility in professional theater.

On Friday, March 11, JCC Manhattan will host “REELationships” – a Friday Night Dinner featuring riveting conversations about life, love and relationships centered around screenings of acclaimed short films including: Good Beer, Jesse, The Mobile Stripper, Perfect, Take Me, Bumblebees and Birthday.

Saturday, March 12, features “ReelAbilities R&R” – an afternoon of free films and activities including Soliloquy: film and dance by Heidi Latsky Dance, Family-Friendly Short Films, ActionPlay Theater Workshop for teens and young adults on the Autism spectrum, Screen-printing workshop by Gowanus Print Lab, and more. The evening will be highlighted by a free screening of director Michael Gitlin’s That Which is Possible, a feature documentaryexploring the artists working at the Living Museum, an art-space on the grounds of the Creedmoor psychiatric facility in Queens.

Actor Danny Woodburn, best known for his role on Seinfeld, will be part of the “Beyond Hollywood: Authenticity and Opportunity” panel discussion on Sunday, March 13. Inclusion in Hollywood was the theme of this year’s Academy Awards program, yet the conversation excluded America’s largest and most underrepresented minority: people with disabilities. This constructive conversation will feature filmmakers and actors with disabilities discussing their own career paths and the tensions between authentic and artistic license, and accuracy and appropriation. Woodburn will be joined by a variety of filmmakers including: Emmy award winner Jason DaSilva, Rich Hinz, Maleni Chaitoo and more. The event is co-presented by SAG-AFTRA, NYC Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment, Inclusion in the Arts, and NY Women in Film and Television. To register for free, please visit: http://newyork.reelabilities.org/films-and-events/#3

The festival closes on Wednesday, March 16, with a special premiere screening of In Harmony. Directed by Denis Dercourt, the feature narrative film follows Marc, an equestrian stuntman recovering from a traumatic injury and his relationship with Florence, the insurance company worker in charge of his case. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Bernard Sachsé, the inspiration for the film and the author of the book on which the film was based. A conversation will be followed by a closing night reception.

As part of the mission of ReelAbilities to use film to create social change, all films are followed by conversation in all locations by filmmakers, experts and protagonists. Among the dozens of guests, the festival includes Actress Regina Saldivar who is the producer of the feature documentary Do You Dream in Color, and renowned screenwriter Thomas Ropelewski who Directed 2E: Twice Exceptional.

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