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ReelAbilities Film Festival moves headquarters from NYC to Cincinnati, plans biggest year yet

The ReelAbilities Film Festival, A weeklong festival of independent, award-winning films, aimed at stirring discussion and celebrating diversity and shared humanity, has moved its headquarters from New York City to Cincinnati. The headquarters in Cincinnati is now overseen by the local nonprofit Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD).
 
ReelAbilities was founded in 2007 in New York City by the Manhattan JCC, and has grown to become the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people who experience disability. The festival now takes place in 14 U.S. cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the biennial festival will next occur February 27-March 7, 2015.
 
“Cincinnati has been so receptive to this festival, it makes perfect sense for it to be here,” says Christa Zielke, National Field Director of the festival. “From the funders to our partners and the festival goers themselves, everyone has really rallied around this.”
 
In 2013, the festival brought 24-plus events to the Cincinnati area, held at a variety of venues including the Contemporary Arts Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Esquire and Mariemont Theaters and more. More than 250 people volunteer, and the festival saw a 514 percent increase in attendance last year from the previous festival in 2011.
 
“By telling these diverse stories through film, ReelAbilities shines a light on our common human spirit,” says Jeff Harris, a board member and funder of the festival through the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B. “Last year’s festival was truly amazing in its ability to draw that connection and include the entire community.”
 
This year, LADD has partnered with several organizations to continue to raise awareness and promote discussion around these topics outside of the festival. This summer, they partnered with 3CDC and Washington Park to sponsor a screening of Finding Nemo.
 
“We’ve also partnered with the education and legal communities to engage people with these ideas, and to celebrate and acknowledge difference,” Zielke says.
 
Among ReelAbilities advocates is Danny Woodburn, a professional actor who plays the voice of Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
 
“Actors with disabilities are 90 percent less likely to be seen, and many characters with disabilities aren’t actually played by actors with disabilities,” Woodburn says. “It’s important for work like this to be done, and if I have the chance to speak out and be heard because I’m recognizable from being in the public eye, then I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.”
 
“But this isn’t just about actors getting work,” Woodburn continues. “Two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed; we need to raise awareness of that fact. If we want that to change, we as a society have to create an environment for change.”
 
For more information about the 2015 ReelAbilities Festival, visit www.cincyra.org

Read more articles by Mike Sarason.

Mike Sarason is the Innovation News Editor for Soapbox Media. In addition, he is a musician, traveler, food enthusiast and thinker. He loves the city of Cincinnati and is happy to be able to report on the rapid strides forward it is taking. 
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