Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements by Irene Taylor Brodsky
Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements by Irene Taylor Brodsky

Oscar nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky’s stunning film “Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements,” which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, will open the 11th ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York on April 2, with the festival continuing until April 9. The Festival showcases talent from around the world dedicated to awareness of the stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities.

The opening night gala film “Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements”  premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where it was nominated for a grand jury prize. The film is a deeply personal portrait of three lives, and the discoveries that lie beyond loss: a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata.  The film was produced by HBO, Taylor Brodsky and Tahria Sheather and will premiere on HBO.

The closing night film “The Drummer and the Keeper,”  directed by Nick Kelley, won numerous awards including the Rising Star Award at the Irish Film and Television Awards and the Festival Jury Prize at the Breaking Down Barriers International Disability Film Festival.  In the film, Gabriel is a drummer in a promising band, desperate to hide his bipolar diagnosis from his exasperated band mates. At a therapeutic mixed-ability soccer game he’s obliged to attend, Gabriel meets Christopher, a teenager with Asperger Syndrome, and the two are forced to “make friends.”

This year’s festival including the world premiere of “Me, My Mouth, and I,”  directed by Sophie Robinson, and the New York premieres of “Nathan’s Kingdom,” “Wild Prairie Rose,” and “ Hearts of Glass.”

The 11th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York will take place at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, located at 76 th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and at over 20 other venues across all five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester and Rockland counties.

FEATURE FILMS

OPENING NIGHT GALA AND SCREENING

“Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements”

Dir.  Irene Taylor Brodsky
90 min., USA, documentary

A deeply personal portrait of three lives, and the discoveries that lie beyond loss: a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata.  The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and is produced by HBO, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tahria Sheather.

CLOSING NIGHT GALA AND SCREENING

“The Drummer and the Keeper”

Dir. Nick Kelly
93 min., Ireland, Narrative

Gabriel is a drummer in a promising band, desperate to hide his bipolar diagnosis from his exasperated bandmates. At a therapeutic mixed-ability soccer game he’s obliged to attend, Gabriel meets Christopher, a teenager with Asperger Syndrome, and the two are forced to “make friends.”

“América”

Dir. Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside
75 min., USA, Documentary

Diego, a young circus artist, returns home and reunites with his brothers after their grandmother, América, falls from her bed. Diego is a dreamer who sees poetry and purpose in this tragedy. His dream of familial cohesion fades into reality as the brothers clash over money, communication, and the challenge of caring for América.

“Crazy”

Dir. Lise Zumwalt
60 min., USA, Documentary

A young man diagnosed with schizophrenia decides to go off his medication fearing that side effects will override the drugs’ benefits. A powerful human drama that challenges perceptions about treating mental illness.

“Gurrumul”

Dir. Paul Williams
96 min., Australia, Documentary

A portrait of world music phenomenon Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind indigenous artist on the brink of international reverence. Possessing a deep reserve of musical talent, he struggles with balancing his personal life and keeping the show on the road.

“Hearts of Glass – A Vertical Farm Takes Root in Wyoming”

Dir. Jennifer Tennican
68 min., USA, Documentary
*East Coast Premiere*

This film follows the tumultuous first 15 months of the operating of Vertical Harvest, a state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse that provides local crops as well as employment for people with disabilities. Plants and people grow together in this intimate portrait of innovation, inclusion, and community.

“Intelligent Lives”

Dir. Dan Habib
72 min., USA, Documentary

Three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate education and the workforce. The film challenges what it means to be intelligent, and points to a future in which people of all abilities can fully participate in higher education, meaningful employment, and intimate relationships.

“Me, My Mouth, and I”

Dir. Sophie Robinson
59 min., UK, Documentary
*International Premiere*

The journey of an actress with Tourette Syndrome and her exploration of neurodiversity. Artist, activist, and performer Jess Thom asks novel questions about the portrayal of disability in the arts and the exclusion of people with disabilities as cultural and creative producers.

“Nathan’s Kingdom”

Dir. Olicer Muñoz
98 min., USA, Narrative
*East Coast Premiere*

A dark fantasy drama about Nathan, a young man with autism, and his sister Laura, who has an addiction. Rather than surrender to social services, they risk it all, battling monsters and enduring mythical wars in the hope of finding a fictitious kingdom to potentially transform their lives forever.

“Suicide: The Ripple Effect”

Dir. Kevin Hines and Greg Dicharry
95 min., USA, Documentary

At age 19, Kevin Hines attempted to take his own life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Seventeen years later, he still struggles with many of the same symptoms that led him to attempt suicide, but he is on a mission to use his story to help others stay alive.

“Tamara and the Ladybug”

Dir. Lucía Carreras
107 min., Mexico, Spain, Narrative

Tamara is a woman with a mental disability who attempts to continue her daily routine despite the disarray in her life. Tamara’s fascination with ladybugs leads her out of her neighborhood and into the unknown, where she discovers a new reality.

“The Drummer and the Keeper”

Dir. Nick Kelly
93 min., Ireland, Narrative

Gabriel is a drummer in a promising band, desperate to hide his bipolar diagnosis from his exasperated band mates. At a therapeutic mixed-ability soccer game he’s obliged to attend, Gabriel meets Christopher, a teenager with Asperger Syndrome, and the two are forced to “make friends.”

“The R-Word”

Dir. Amanda Lukoff
66 min., USA, Documentary
*East Coast Premiere*

The inappropriate use of the R-word can be heard every day, and continues to marginalize a population of people. This film confronts how, when, and why the R-word became so present in our culture, illustrates who it impacts, and ultimately makes the case for changing the conversation around people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Wild Prairie Rose”

Dir. Deborah LaVine
91 min., USA, Narrative
*New York Premiere*

In 1952, Rose Miller returns to her rural hometown to care for her ailing mother. When Rose decides to embark on a filmmaking project in her local community, she is enchanted by a local man who is deaf, and must decide if she has the courage to follow her heart.

SHORT FILMS

“Act Natural”

Dir. Luca Fox
4 min., Australia, Narrative

The battle occurring in the mind of a young man with high-functioning autism as he engages in everyday conversation.

“Coda”

Dir. Erika Davis-Marsh
22 min., USA, Narrative

A young dancer struggles with her identity and growing up hearing in a deaf family.

“Descent: In Process”

Dir. Chris Cameron
7 min., USA, Documentary

Three artists create a multimedia dance performance that amplifies the joy of wheeled movement.

“Hair Trigger”

Dir. Taylor Schafer
9 min., USA, Narrative

School shooting survivor Sadie struggles to reconcile the night before the rest of Sadie’s classmates return to school without her.

“Hale”

Dir. Brad Bailey
21 min., USA, Documentary

Born with cerebral palsy, Hale Zukas is the “grandfather” of the disability movement. A born activist,he wakes up every day to fight for disability rights.

“Hot Flash”

Dir. Danny Woodburn
9 min., USA, Web Series

In this parody, a woman discovers that her symptoms of menopause allow her to unwittingly become a superhero.

“Ian, a Moving Story”

Dir. Abel Goldfarb
10 min., Argentina, Narrative

Ian has cerebral palsy. All he wants is to make friends, but discrimination keeps him away from the playground.

“Jmaxx and the Universal Language”

Dir. Ryan Mayers
13 min., USA, Documentary

A teenager with autism turns to dance as a way to better express himself.

“Leftover”

Dir. Meric Demiray
10 min., Turkey, Narrative

A young man leaves home to join a peace rally. On his way, he starts to experience strange occurrences.

“Little Rebel”

Dir. Aimie Vallat and Guido Ronge
10 min., USA, Documentary

Isatou Jallow, a woman from The Gambia living in Seattle, advocates for women, asylees, and people with disabilities.

“Living Art”

Dir. David Rochkind
32 min., USA, Documentary

The story of a young woman living with familial dysautonomia, whose art became her stunning and profound means of communication and livelihood.

“Mapping the Disability Trap”

Dir. Jason DaSilva
14 min., USA, Documentary

Filmmaker Jason DaSilva encounters a health care crisis as he tries to be closer to his son who lives 2,000 miles away.

“The Matchmaker”

Dir. Leonora Pitts
12 min., USA, Narrative

Sam is concerned that his aging mother lacks the social stimulation that he believes will stave off Alzheimer’s. He decides to find her a new best friend.

“On the Spectrum”

Dir. Yuval Shafferman, Created by Dana Idisis + Yuval Shafferman
26 min., Israel, Series

Three roommates in their twenties, all on the autism spectrum, share an apartment while learning to contend with the world around them.

“Panic Attack!”

Dir. Eileen O’Meara
3 min., USA, Narrative

A woman wonders if she left the coffee machine on, causing her to slowly fall into a pit of anxiety and obsession, and lose hold on reality.

“Shakespeare in Tokyo”

Dir. Genevieve Clay-Smith
21 min., Australia, Japan, Narrative

A Shakespeare fan with Down syndrome sets off on a solo adventure to discover Tokyo and to prove his independence.

“Shake with Me”

Dir. Zack Grant
33 min., USA, Documentary

Debra Magid is an artist living with, and growing through, Parkinson’s disease. Her art, health, and family bring her will to triumph.

“The Siblings Liebencrantz”

Dir. Jonathan Johnson
5 min., USA, Narrative

If you enter the Minimalist Café in Brooklyn, you’ll find four siblings all searching for something: to be the next YouTube sensation.

“Take Me to the Waves”

Dir. Jake Taylor Kipping + Tom Stoker
20 min., UK, Narrative

When Clementine shares her romantic feelings towards her caregiver, she must face the complications that exist.

“Thrive”

Dir. Paul Szynol
14 min., USA, Documentary

A look at the prodigious talent and irrepressible spirit of a musically precocious 12-year-old blind piano player.

“The Unconditional”

Dir. Dave Adams
30 min., USA, Documentary

An unflinching look into the lives of two undiagnosed children with disabilities and their parents, as they try to navigate reality.

“Unteachable”

Dir. Anthony Sherin
11 min., USA, Documentary

A boy who can’t read meets a teacher who changes everything.

“Visibility”

Dir. Keenan O’Reilly
5 min., USA, Narrative

A dynamic duo hatches a bird-brained scheme to supplement their income.

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