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Best Summer Ever directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli
Best Summer Ever directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli

The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, the largest festival in the U.S. dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with disabilities, will run from April 29th through May 5th, with Itzhak Perlman as this year’s honoree.

ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, will kick off with the New York premiere of Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli’s feature directorial debut, “BEST SUMMER EVER.” A wild, fresh, and exhilarating take on the beloved teen musical genre, the film tells the story of summer lovers separated by circumstance…or are they? The film is executive produced by a who’s who of Hollywood actors including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ted Danson, Amy Brenneman, and Mary Steenburgen. With nine original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities, this history-making film redefines the movie musical for a new generation. It will screen April 29, at 7 p.m. at the Queens Drive-In, co-presented by Rooftop Films.

The Closing Night event on May 5 will feature a live Q+A for Nicholas Bruckman’s acclaimed documentary “NOT GOING QUIETLY,” which follows the remarkable and empowering story of activist Ady Barkan who, after his ALS diagnosis, learns of a new legislation proposal jeopardizing programs critical to his survival, and embarks on a cross-country tour to fight for healthcare justice. Executive produced by Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, and Bradley Whitford, “NOT GOING QUIETLY” premiered at this year’s SXSW to rave reviews. It will screen throughout the festival.

The 13th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York will be a hybrid festival; Opening Nght will be a drive-in screening (partnered with Rooftop Films) at the Queens drive-in with virtual screenings and live Q+As via the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan virtual cinema and their partner theaters including the Jacob Burns Film Center, Maysles Cinema, among others for the rest of the festival.

Isaac Zablocki, Director and Co-founder of the festival, reflects on the virtual format: “Last year, after pivoting our festival to virtual within just two weeks, we realized that we presented our most accessible festival ever. We received notes from people who could never have attended in the past, but were able to enjoy the festival virtually for the first time. We were excited to build our most diverse and inclusive program and present it with full accessibility.”

13th ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York Lineup

FEATURES

Ahead of the Curve
Dir. Jen Rainin
US | 2020 | 97 min
In 1990, with a fistful of credit cards, a lucky run at the horse track, and chutzpah for days, Franco Stevens launched Curve, the best-selling lesbian lifestyle magazine ever published. Decades later, when a fading legacy and disabling injury cause Stevens to reassess her life, she sets out on a journey to learn about today’s LGBTQIA activists to help determine a path forward.

Augmented
Dir. Matthew Orr
US | 2019 | 81 min
The personal journey of Hugh Herr, a double amputee and MIT scientist who creates brain-controlled robotic limbs. At 17, Hugh survived a near-death experience while climbing Mount Washington. Stunned by the prosthetic he was given, and realizing there was untapped potential for such devices, Hugh set out to improve the field of prosthetics. His innovative success leads to a major scientific breakthrough, a radical new way of performing amputations, and more.

Best Summer Ever
Dir. Michael Parks Randa, Lauren Smitelli
US | 2020 | 80 min
Sage (Shannon DeVido) and Anthony (Ricky Wilson, Jr.) had the best summer ever after falling in love at summer camp. By a twist of fate, Sage arrives unexpectedly at the same high school as Anthony at the start of the new school year. Now faced with the drama of cliques, an evil cheerleader, and the illegal secret that keeps Sage’s family on the move, they are forced to re-evaluate their relationship. This history-making musical features eight original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities.

Crutch
Dir. Chandler Evans, Sachi Cunningham
US | 2020 | 93 min
Crutch chronicles the life of artist Bill Shannon, an internationally renowned breakdancer and skateboarder on crutches, as he uses his performance skills to shine light on his prowess and power, tearing apart the world of assumptions that surrounds us all.

In a Different Key
Dir. Caren Zucker, John Donvan
US | 2020 | 102 min
A mother tracks down the first person ever diagnosed with autism to a rural Mississippi town to learn whether his life story holds promise for her own autistic son. Her journey exposes a startling record of cruelty and kindness alike framed by forces like race, money, and privilege. She ultimately finds hope for a future with greater acceptance for those who are considered different.

Maricarmen
Dir. Sergio Morkin
Mexico | 2019 | 80 min
Maricarmen Graue is a cello player, music teacher, writer, and marathon runner. Blind and living alone, she subverts any expectations of helplessness with a biting sense of humor and a fierce attitude. Swaying between laughter and a bare-boned meditation on the act of living, Maricarmen navigates the trials and triumphs of a strong, perseverant woman.

Not Going Quietly
Dir. Nicholas Bruckman
US | 2021| 96 min
When activist and new father Ady Barkan is diagnosed with ALS and given four years to live, he finds himself directly impacted by a new legislation proposal jeopardizing essential healthcare programs critical to Ady’s and others’ survival. After a chance confrontation with Senator Jeff Flake goes viral, Ady embarks on a cross-country tour, using his final breaths to fight for healthcare justice to try and create a better world for his newborn son to inherit.

The Special
Dir. Ignacio Márquez
Venezuela | 2020 | 91 min
Chuo, a charming young man with Down syndrome, must navigate the challenges of early adulthood as he seeks to build a life of independence from his troubled father. Long separated by an ocean of silence and shame, will the two men be able to build a common future?

The World Is Bright
Dir. Ying Wang
Canada | 2019 | 116 min
What would you do if your only child died mysteriously in another country and was buried in your absence? The World Is Bright follows the epic 10-year journey of an elderly Chinese couple searching for the truth behind their son’s death in Canada. What starts out looking like a murder mystery becomes something else entirely—a rare revelation about immigration, mental health, and a Kafkaesque bureaucracy at the heart of global migration.

SHORTS

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Dir. Mads Koudal
Denmark | 2019 | 19 min
Birthe is 81 years old, and lives with her 55-year-old daughter Karen, who has Down syndrome. Birthe is struggling with dementia, and the local authority believes that she’s no longer capable of taking care of her daughter.

Charon
Dir. Cullen Parr
US | 2019 | 12 min
Myron Dyal is an artist with temporal lobe epilepsy who creates striking art inspired by the visions he has during his seizures. As reality starts to unravel around him, Myron struggles with accepting his epilepsy.

Coexist
Dir. Komeil Soheili
Iran | 2020 | 13 min
Dela is a blind captain living on Hormuz Island in Southern Iran. While geopolitical tensions between Iran and the US rise, he practices a unique method of making bread that uses three unexpected elements from the island.

Daddy’s Girl
Dir. Cian Elyse White
New Zealand | 2019 |11 min
Te Puhi prepares for the toughest day of her life—she must come to terms with her father’s dementia. But first, the two share a traditional meal.

David
Dir. Zach Woods
US | 2020 | 12 min
A severely depressed man reaches out for an emergency therapy session. He’s not the only one who needs help. Starring William Jackson Harper and Will Ferrell.

Deafinition
Dir. Nicole Miller
Australia | 2020 | 8 min
A personal look into the inner world of Peter, a deaf man, and his experiences in his day-to-day social interactions. With comedy and creativity, we learn about Paul’s reality and perspective.

Dead End Drive
Dir. Alexander Yellen
US | 2020 | 15 min
While running from zombies, Oscar hits a dead end, but is quickly led to safety by fellow survivors Darcey and Jacob. He is invited to stay the night by the couple before he heads out in search of the mysterious Salvation. Oscar soon learns that they have prepared for everything—including him.

Full Picture
Dir. Jacob Reed
US | 2020 | 12 min
Santina has been in a wheelchair since she was six years old. With meetings, hangouts, and classes happening virtually due to the coronavirus quarantine, she’s experiencing something new—choosing when (or if) to disclose her disability.

How Much Am I Worth?
Dir. Rachel Handler
US | 2020 | 6 min
A stirring exploration of the challenges of the US health care and insurance industries through the lens of people with disabilities, who find themselves trapped in an antiquated system with dire consequences.

Hal and Minter
Dir. Ram Devineni
US | 2020 | 24 min
Hal Sirowitz has Parkinson’s disease. At one time one of the most popular poets in the United States, he was a regular on MTV and one of the original performers at the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe. Hal and his partner, the writer Minter Krotzer, have become advocates for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families. A funny and uplifting story about being a creative couple and finding your voice.

I’m So Far
Dir. Leo Grandperret
France | 2019 | 3 min
Sometimes, things that seem simple… just aren’t. The trials of a senior with limited mobility trying to leave his home with the help of some friends.

My Layers
Dir. Susanne Serres
Canada | 2021 | 5 min
A glimpse into what it’s like to experience psychosis, as seen through the power of dance.

Neurim
Dir. Shaylee Atary
Israel | 2021 | 31 min
Breezes of desire enter wheelchair-user Orr’s rehabilitation routine when her former classmate becomes her hew new physiotherapist.

Second Time
Dir. Rafa Oliveira
Brazil | 2020 | 4 min
A deaf couple chats at a party while everyone else observes the beginning of a beautiful love story. But is the conversation as innocent as it seems?

Single
Dir. Ashley Eakin
US | 2020 |14 min
Kim, who was born with one arm, gets set up on a blind date. When she finally meets Jake, she quickly realizes he also has a physical disability, and she is pissed. An unapologetic perspective on the complexities of being disabled and dating.

Strange
Dir. Cameron Carr
UK | 2020 | 3 min
An animated glimpse into the life of an autistic author exploring friendship, trials, and the use of unique coping strategies.

The Secret Life of Tom Lightfoot
Dir. Ray Jacobs
UK | 2020 | 10 min
Tom is anxious. He holds a secret in his human heart, a wing beat and a flutter, and it’s bursting to take flight in this tale of magical realism.

Verisimilitude
Dir. David Proud
UK | 2020 | 12 min
An unemployed disabled actress is frustrated that all the disabled acting roles go to able-bodied actors. She gets a job as an advisor to a spoilt up-and-coming British film star, advising him on how to be disabled for his latest role, which might just win him a BAFT

Wiggle Room
Dir. Sam Guest + Julia Baylis
US | 2020 | 14 min
Motivated by the imminent repossession of the wheelchair ramp from her house, teenaged Daisy is on a mission to get back the money she’s owed from a shady insurance agency. Only then does Daisy realize that the barrier of bureaucracy will be her biggest challenge.
Logline: Motivated by the imminent repossession of the wheelchair ramp from her house, Daisy goes on a mission to get back the money she’s owed from a shady insurance agency.

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