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Are People with Disabilities Entertaining?

Are People with Disabilities Entertaining?


Friday, 21st of November, 3 p.m., "Filmmuseum"
(gratis; registration: 089-307 992-20)

From the beginning, it has been a main idea of the festival "The Way We Live“ to serve as a forum for filmmakers, people with disabilities and people who work with the disabled. The discussions after festival screenings give filmmakers and the audience a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas. The Friday afternoon workshop is meant to further that dialogue – by investigating the conditions and context within which films about disability, and fictional feature films in particular, are made.

There is a great wish and justified demand that people with disabilities play an equal role in television and fictional feature films and that these roles are presented realistically. The problem is not so much that disabilities and chronic illness are not shown in films. Writers frequently see the one or the other as a welcome subject or occasion for a screenplay. Disabilities and illness serve as plot catalyzers, they are used to dramatize a situation or conflict or as an element of characterization. The question is rather how authentic the images are which television and fictional feature films portray of disabilities and people with disabilities.

Much hope is based on the fact that more and more people with disabilities are seeking training as actors. There seems to be a certain market for their skills. Rightfully actors (or actresses) with disabilities first consider themselves "actors" (or "actresses"), not "disabled". They do not want to represent what is "exceptional" or "different". And yet they run into limitations, which need not be culturally or socially defined. Is it possible that the "authenticity" of a disability imposes limitations on the actor/actress's art? Who does the audience see – the "person with a disability" or the actor/actress?

It has always been an attractive task for non disabled actors and actresses to play people with disabilities. Admiration and applause are guaranteed. The portrayal of "special people" attracts virtuoso acting. It is interesting to learn how an actor/actress prepares for such a role. How does he or she create the "authenticity"?

There are films where it is hard to define whether they have taken advantage of their actor or actress's disability, or whether they are the products of a fortunate and finally attained normalcy. Many questions still have not been adequately examined or tested – whether people with disabilities can be entertaining and telegenic, for example, and whether it is okay to laugh at them; whether actors with disabilities can become crowd-pullers above and beyond their disabilities; or whether it is okay for the boy with Down syndrome to be the murderer.

Why does the cinema need disabled people? Why do disabled people need the cinema? What market value does disability have as a topic? Under what conditions does disability occur in the cinema? When is it accepted, when is it disturbing?

These and other questions will be examined in a panel discussion. All filmmakers and interested members of the audience are invited to join the following round of open discussion.

The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Behinderung und Medien is pleased to announce an outstanding discussion panel. The members are: film and TV producer Dr. Gabriela Sperl, whose credentials include production and screenplay for the film "Bobby"; Ewan Marshall, producer and director for the BBC, who produced the "Pear Shaped" trilogy (part two, "The Egg", is being screened in this year's competition); Ralf Rainer Reimann, director of the Academy of Performing Arts in Ulm (which this autumn has launched an integrated course of study for actors with physical disabilities); and, as panel moderator, Dr. Stefan Heiner, editor of the book "Bildstörungen" ("Picture Interference").

A number of film excerpts will be shown during the workshop. English simultaneous translation and sign language interpretation will be provided.

- More information on the festival


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