Film fest to focus on disability

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"Ocean Heaven," a Chinese film in which Jet Li makes a dramatic departure playing the father of a son with autism, will open the ReelAbilities Film Festival later this month.

The event, being held for the first time in Pittsburgh, is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with disabilities.

JFilm and FISA Foundation, dedicated to improving the lives of women, girls and people with disabilities in southwestern Pennsylvania, are presenting the programming over four days.

Features or shorts will be accompanied by related supplemental talks, tours or other activities. Most films are recommended for ages 16 and older.

"Ocean Heaven," in Mandarin with English subtitles, will play at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 1815 Metropolitan St., North Side. Mr. Li plays an aquarium worker and terminally ill man who tries to provide his 22-year-old son with the tools and skills needed to function independently in society.

A reception and discussion sponsored by FISA Foundation will follow the 96-minute feature.

At 1 p.m. Oct. 27, "Reel Encounters: An Afternoon of Shorts" will showcase three short films appropriate for ages 10 and older at Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Ave., East Liberty.

The 26-minute "Outsider -- The Life and Art of Judith Scott" is about a woman with Down syndrome who is deaf and unable to speak. Her talent with textiles is discovered when her sister moves her from an Ohio institution to California where she begins working at the Creative Growth Art Center.

"Anything You Can Do" is a 7-minute short about two boys in a game of one-upmanship, while the 23-minute "Among the Giants" explores a New York-based nonprofit that builds customized equipment for children and adults with disabilities, primarily using cardboard.

The shorts will be preceded at 12:30 p.m. and followed by tours of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Bakery Square.

Free and accessible parking is available between fourth/fifth level of the parking garage behind the building; organizers suggest entering the west elevator lobby and crossing the bridge to Bakery Square and looking for ReelAbilities ticket table.

At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27, the film "Anita" will be shown at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Ave., with a reception at 6:30 p.m. (RSVP when purchasing ticket).

Alejandra Manzo, an actress with Down syndrome, plays the title role, a woman separated from her mother (Norma Aleandro) after the terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994. In Spanish with subtitles, the movie runs 104 minutes.

"Crooked Beauty," a 32-minute experimental portrait of Jacks Ashley McNamara chronicling the path from victim of childhood abuse to psychiatric inpatient and then mental health advocate, will screen at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at Rodef Shalom. It will be followed by storytelling and performance art emceed by comedian Marion Grodin.

"The Straight Line," a French-language film about a young recently blind runner who has to put his trust in a coach with a past that includes time in prison, will be shown at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, 650 Schenley Drive, and followed by a panel on adaptive sports.

Opening night tickets are $25 each or $15 for students under 26 with valid ID. All other films, $10 or $5 for students. Available at or 412-992-5203 or, if not sold out, at door with cash only.

Website also has more information on sponsors for individual programs, guests and venues, including parking.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM


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