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Blind drivers? Landmine survivors? Deaf poets and rappers? Brain damaged filmmakers? Thalidomide nudes? One-legged dancers? Singing stutterers? Any or all of these are rounded up for a gloriously diverse line-up of films that explore the many facets of disability with humour, verve and drama, inviting interaction with the audience via guest speakers and forums; it’s The Other Film Festival (Sept 3 – 7) at The Age Theatre, Melbourne Museum, presented by Arts Access Victoria.

The 2008 line-up includes more than 35 films to be shown over 20 sessions, including short films, documentaries and animations from all corners of the globe including Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Greece, UK, USA, France, Iran, Denmark, Canada, Hungary and, of course, Australia. The films will be presented in an environment that promotes accessibility for every audience member. Films will be captioned and audio described and all sessions and forums will be sign interpreted.

Several international guests will participate, including award-winning Canadian director, Paul Nadler, whose gutsy film Braindamadj’d…Take 2 will be re-screened due to popular demand; Greek documentary-maker Antonios Rellas who will present his latest film Waves Of The Aegean; Gregor Kern, the world’s leading authority on disability cinema and director of Germany’s long-running Wie Wie Leben (The Way We Live Festival), and from the USA, Betty Siegel, director of Accessibility at Washington’s Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts.

Several local filmmakers will also be on hand to present their films, including Festival Patron Adam Elliott who will share some hilarious and potentially defamatory stories about the making of his latest stop-motion feature animation, Mary And Max.

Highlights from the 2008 program include:
THE ITALIAN DOCTOR (Director: Esben Hansen, Documentary, Denmark)
For the past 15 years Dr Alberto Cairo has had one aim: to restore the dignity of every mine victim in Afghanistan. As head of the Red Cross Orthopaedic Centre in Kabul, Dr. Cairo has helped more than 50.000 mine victims walk again, and he fights a daily battle to support their reintegration into war-torn Afghan society.

A COSY PLACE FOR THE FISH (Director: Leila Hossieny - Drama, Iran)
Living on the outer fringe of a large city, a short-statured couple prepare for the arrival of their first child. A powerful and confronting expression of difference and dignity.

LOOK AT ME (Director: Niko von Glasow - Documentary, Germany)
Niko von Glasow takes an honest, humorous and unblinking look at how thalidomide has affected the way he is perceived by himself and others. He asks a number of thalidomide-affected people to join him in posing naked for an exhibition of giant photos.

RASPBERRY RIPPLE (Director: Patrick Whittaker - Comedy, UK)
Young rock star Des Gilroy suffers a stroke on stage and spends the next forty years in NHS nursing homes as a cripple. He is eventually expelled for a series of misdemeanours and is forced to move in with his brother. An argument with the squatters next door escalates into a full-blown war with neither side preparing to take prisoners.

YOLK (Director: Stephen Lance - Drama, Australia)
When Lena, a fifteen-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome, steals a sex book from a mobile library, her mother forces her to take it back in an embarrassing family spectacle that only strengthens her daughter’s rebellious and irrepressible desire. Discussion with director and actors.

WAVES OF THE AEGEAN (Director: Antonios Rellas - Documentary, Greece)
In 2003, the year before the Paralympics in Athens, five athletes commenced what seemed an impossible swim from Sounio to Milos. These two islands are separated by more than 150 kilometres of open, unforgiving water. The director, Antonios Rellas, is in Australia as a guest of the festival. The screening will be followed by a once-only opportunity to hear Rellas, himself an amputee, elaborate on his provocative views on sport, disability, filmmaking and the rights of all citizens. Q&A with the director.

INVITATION TO THE DANCE - BODY AND TABOO (Director: Gerhard Schick, Documentary, Germany)
Gerda Koenig is a highly skilled dancer. She is also a feisty and uncompromising choreographer who has chosen to work in Kenya with people with physical disabilities to create an ambitious dance performance. Gerda has muscular dystrophy and now uses an electric wheelchair. As the project stalls, it becomes clear that it is cultural difference not physical difference that is the main obstacle.

KING GIMP (Director: Susan Hannah Hadary/William A. Whiteford - Documentary, USA) Disability Culture, USA

“Another day of crap” are the words that kick off this Oscar award-winning documentary about the indefatigable Dan Keplinger. Born with cerebral palsy, Dan has fought to enter the mainstream his whole life. Filmed over 13 years, this is an exceptional portrait of a young artist.

Published August 28, 2008

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