Reel Abilities Film Festival Focuses on People with Disabilities

"No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie" is the debut film of the festival in Cleveland.
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When Katti Sorboro began to lose her hearing, she did not stop heading to the movies. Instead, she sat close to the speaker inside the theater and asked her daughter what was going on if she missed something.

More recently, theaters have expanded services for the hearing impaired and she has tried different technology, like glasses that display closed-captioning.

“It’s different, but like anything you get used to it,” she said.

Sorboro is behind a new film festival in Cleveland focused on presenting films by and about people with disabilities in ways that are accessible for audiences. The Reel Abilities Film Festival, a concept that began about 10 years ago in New York, will present a handful of films in the greater Cleveland area starting this week.

“It was a way to try to bring a conversation about disability into the fold. Often when people talk about diversity, disability is not in the conversation,” she said.

In addition to free film screenings, the festival will host discussions surrounding different topics central to the films. The first, “No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie,” shows at the Parma-Snow branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library at 6 p.m., Thursday. There will be a discussion after the movie about hearing loss led by the Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The other films include: “The Rebound: A Wheelchair Basketball Documentary” about the Miami Heat Wheels, “Bottom Dollars” about labor exploitation, “On Beauty” about stereotypes of what is beautiful, and “Design-Ability” about designers with Down Syndrome and autism.

All of the showings will have open captioning, which means the text displays on the screen. The locations also have wheelchair access and welcome service animals. Audio descriptions, language interpreters and braille are available by request in advance.  

Sorboro said she hopes the festival will bring about a better understanding about living with disabilities and a desire to engage with others.

Katti Sorboro, director of the Reel Abilities Film Festival in Cleveland

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