Join ReelAbilities at Montclair State from Oct. 30-Nov. 5!
As part of the largest disability film festival, Montclair ReelAbilities, is dedicated to sharing and providing the cutting edge and sometimes controversial films that challenge assumptions and promote discussion about ability and disability.
Montclair ReelAbilities actually began about 8 years ago at the JCC Manhattan as an effort to promote awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic talents of individuals with different abilities. In the past, individuals with disabilities have had restricted opportunities in education, employment and inclusion in communities, primarily due to the stereotypic misconceptions of others.
All types of individuals needed to be appropriately represented in images, stories, kids books, films etc and that wasn’t happening with people with disabilities.
“Recent changes have included the featuring of more children’s books with characters who have disabilities and companies like lego and Barbie including characters who happen to have disabilities as well as several new TV shows with characters with disabilities as part of the family.” said Fran Prezant, M.Ed. CCC-SLP, Director of ReelAbilities Montclair.
The festival team in NYC accepted submitted films that had not been released , reviewed them and selected the best for the festival which they aired every March in NYC. This has grown to a national festival with over a dozen cities around the country and several dozen in NY and is supposed to capture people’s ABILITIES in a film format hence the name Reel Abilities….last year I believe they received almost 1000 submissions from ll over the world. They select a menu, headline the festival in NYC and then the other sites around the country select from the menu for their festivals.” said Prezant.
“I selected from the menu based on what was new and would stimulate discussion as the festival is supposed to screen films and then have post film discussions and events to challenge assumptions and get people thinking about their own attitudes.” said Prezant.
Prezant is no stranger to working with individuals with disabilities as she has been a disability professor for decades, also advocating for parents of children with disabilities within in school settings. She has taught in several universities and worked at the National Center for Disability Services and authored several books including “Disability and the Family Life Cycle” and “Married with Special Needs Children”.
“I love preparing future professionals by getting them to think more holistically and more about similarities and strengths than disabilities as deficits. People who have disabilities usually want what we all want-friends, family, jobs, a place in the community. They don’t want to be defined by their disability. It’s just part of who they are.” said Prezant.
As Prezant said, she “can guarantee an interesting evening, thought provoking stories,discussions and presentations, and an opportunity meeting interesting people with a good mix of folks from the community, surrounding agencies, students, faculty and others!”