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Queens Chronicle

Film festival places focus on disabilities

Central Queens Y in Forest Hills hosts annual event this weekend

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Thu Mar 13, 2014.

The 6th Annual NY ReelAbilities Film Festival, depicting the lives of people with disabilities, will be held at the Central Queens Y, 67-09 108 St., on March 9-10.

The festival is designed “to bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience,” said Peggy Kurtz, coordinator of the film festival for the Central Queens Y, adding that it is the largest festival of its kind in the country. Three films will be shown as part of the festival.

“Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” depicts an autistic boy running away from school during Hurricane Sandy. Made long before the real-life tragedy of Avonte Oquendo, the Rego Park boy who ran out of his school last fall and went missing for months, it “is eerily similar,” said the screenwriter, Rose Lichter-Mark.

The film, which shows March 9, is about “creating a specific character that experiences NYC in a unique way,” Lichter-Mark said, adding that it is “trying to find empathy for people who experience life differently than you and I and trying to survive together.”

The other film showing March 9 is “Gabrielle” shows the redemptive powers of music and love among young people with developmental disabilities living in a group home.

“Do You Believe in Love?” is the true story of an Israeli Orthodox woman, paralyzed with ALS, who is successful as a matchmaker using tough love and humor but not believing in love herself. This film shows on March 10. A professional matchmaker will be on hand after the showing.

Also playing on March 10 is “The Commute,” which shows a wheelchair user, with his birthday gift for his daughter, navigating the subways, buses, and streets to get home.

“The film brings to light what we simply take for granted” and “the non-reaction of other people” while he struggles with public transportation, said the director of the film, Jake Alexander McAfee. This four-minute film has minimal dialogue.

“Each of these films will be followed by discussions — some with actors or other professionals,” said Kurtz. “In different ways, all three of these films deal with the ways in which most people want to make as much of an independent and fully satisfying life for themselves as possible.”

A fourth production, a four-minute animated documentary, “A Life with Asperger’s,” will also be shown.

“The film is a coming of age story,” said Jaime Ekkens, the director of the film, in an email. “So much of the narrative is about growing up and learning to accept and live within your own limitations. It’s also about the importance of friendships and social relationships.”

A photographic exhibit, “Pearls Project,” featuring young people in disabilities programs throughout Queens, is also on display.

The festival brings a diverse crowd, Kurtz added. This is the third year that the Central Queens Y will host the festival.

The suggested donation is $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers. For more information, call (718) 268-5011 or go online at cqy.org.

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