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Film fest showcases people with disabilities

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Micah Fialka-Feldman is one of three young people who are the focus of Intelligent Lives.

In a scene from Dan Habib’s documentary film, Intelligent Lives, we see Micah Fialka-Feldman walking through the campus of Syracuse University, where he teaches. His intellectual disability is not obvious until he recounts how he discovered that he had an IQ of 40.

After googling the interpretation of the results, Fialka-Feldman says his IQ test results do not reflect his abilities – after all, he’s a teacher.

Fialka-Feldman, 34, is one of three young people with intellectual disabilities who are navigating the workforce and education system in Intelligent Lives, the opening film of the fourth annual ReelAbilities Film Festival Toronto (RAFFTO), which runs from May 24 to June 2.

According to its website, RAFFTO showcases “Canadian and international shorts, features and documentaries about deaf and disability cultures and by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are deaf.”

Liviya Mendelsohn, the artistic director of RAFFTO and the director of accessibility and inclusion at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, said she is excited about this year’s lineup of films.

She noted that the festival will be partnering with several different community organizations, such as Community Living Toronto and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, for the 20-plus screenings and events. The offerings also include dance performances, workshops and an accessible comedy night.

At the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre on May 25, RAFFTO, in conjunction with the Bad Dog Comedy Theatre and Cahoots Theatre Projects, will present Laugh with RAFF, a night of stand-up, storytelling, clown and musical comedy celebrating comedians who are deaf or have disabilities.

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The screening of Intelligent Lives and the opening night gala will be held 7 p.m. on May 29 at Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

The challenges faced by the three subjects of the film are very common for young adults with intellectual disabilities, Mendelsohn said. “A lot of families call it falling off the cliff, as their children age out of the system.”

When these young people reach early adulthood, there are limited opportunities for their social and intellectual growth. “There’s a lot of social isolation and career limitations for people with intellectual disabilities,” said Mendelsohn. “Habib’s film explodes that model and looks at the possibilities.”

Habib and Fialka-Feldman will attend a Q-and-A following the screening of Intelligent Lives. Mendelsohn said Fialka-Feldman is among the first wave of adults with intellectual disabilities who have attended college.

There has been a growing movement to integrate people with disabilities into society, she said. “They are becoming their own advocates for change.”

She also spoke about the film, Muhi: Generally Temporary, which is about a Palestinian boy from Gaza who has severe disabilities. He’s a quadruple amputee who has been receiving care in an Israeli hospital since he was an infant. “He is caught between two worlds,” Mendelsohn remarked. It will be screened on June 1 at the Al Green Theatre.

Dr. Asaph Rolnitsky, an Israeli-born neonatologist who’s now working at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, will participate in the discussion after the film. He has treated similar patients from Gaza and will speak about his experiences.

The closing night’s film will be Sophie Robinson’s Touretteshero: Me, My Mouth and I, a documentary film about artist and activist Jess Thom that follows her as she sets out to stage a rendition of Samuel Beckett’s play, Not I. Touretteshero explores issues of exclusion for people with disabilities as cultural and creative producers.

Thom will be attending the screening, which takes place 7 p.m. on June 2 at Innis Town Hall.

All festival venues are wheelchair accessible and companion seating is available. All films will screen with open captioning and/or subtitles. American Sign Language interpreters will be present at select screenings and panels. There is no charge for support people and service animals are welcome.

 

For more information about the festival, visit reelabilities.org/toronto.