So just how far has society come in the acceptance and the inclusion of individuals with disabilities? If art is a reflection of life, then we should look to film to examine the progress we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learned about inclusion.
That’s exactly what a new documentary titled CinemAbility, which premiered in Los Angeles last week, seeks to do. The film, sponsored by BraunAbility and produced and directed by Jenni Gold, a longtime friend, and customer, takes a detailed look at the evolution of disability in entertainment. As a wheelchair user who lives with muscular dystrophy, she was the perfect catalyst to set the project in motion.
She brought a few well-known friends along for help, including celebrities like Jamie Foxx, William H. Macy, Ben Affleck and Beau Bridges. All shared their experiences with disability in film or television and any preconceived notions they had about playing such a character.
Unbeknownst to each, the actors and actresses were asked the same question: What is the first portrayal of a disability that you remember in entertainment? Answers ranged from a blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark to Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot to Tom Cruise in Born on the 4th of July.
The common theme among each interview: we need more. We’ve come a long way from the days of black and white Charlie Chaplin films when people with physical disabilities were portrayed as carnival freak show entertainment. Hollywood doesn’t always get it right, however, and many of the industry’s notable actors, actresses and directors are intentionally seeking to change that.
CinemAbility premiered last Friday, July 26th, which was, appropriately, the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For a list of cities that will show the film on its national tour, visit www.cinemability.com or follow CinemAbility on Facebook.