2015 Film Festival

November 6 & 7, 2015. Alamo Drafthouse Village.

What a year for Cinema Touching Disability! In 2015, we turned our attention to barrier-breaking women with disabilities, bringing two award-winning documentaries (not to mention their stars!) to Austin.

Shot from the back of a crowded theater, a group of people stand in front of a bright screen with the Film Festival logo.We got an early start on Festival activities with a re-design of our logo (above), inspired by the Accessible Icon Project's update of the International Symbol of Access. Then it was months of work on logistics, outreach, and fundraising until the big event November 6 & 7 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. With a smattering of print and TV media coverage and help from our co-hosts, we pre-sold a record number of tickets, and our audience packed the house to capacity both nights (right).

Close up on a young woman's face with strands of blonde hair and green eyes. She has green blankets pulled up to her nose and stares directly at the camera.We began our program both nights with winning entries from our international Short Film Competition. First place in the non-documentary division went to Guest Room (left), an entry from 2007 competition winner Joshua Tate and an official selection at SXSW Film. In it, a young woman with Down Syndrome grapples with questions of intimacy, identity, and motherhood after an unplanned pregnancy with her boyfriend. Menke's Disease: Finding Help and Hope picked up first place in the documentary division. This film introduced audiences to this rare genetic disorder, and to three families who found hope after their children received the diagnosis.

Check out the full results of the 2015 Short Film Competition!

Friday night after the Short Film Competition, we opened the stage to another CTD arts initiative, the Pen 2 Paper creative writing contest. 2015 Grand Prize winner David Borden read It Will Be More Beautiful, a selection from his upcoming memoir on raising a daughter with multiple disabilities.

Right Footed (2015) was our big feature on Friday night. Directed by Emmy Award winning film-maker Nick Spark and winner of the Best Documentary in this summer's Mirable Dictu International Film, Right Footed chronicles two years in the life of Jessica Cox. Born without arms, Cox is the world's only armless pilot, an accomplished martial artist, a college graduate, and an advocate for the disabled.

In a sequence of four photos, a group of young men in black karate uniforms go through a series of poses, some still, some dynamic.

A woman with no arms and girl in a black karate uniform stand side by side, grinning and touching the toes of their right feet together.

In conjunction with the martial arts component of the film, CTD partnered with Austin-based One World Karate to hold a mixed-ability martial arts exhibition to kick off the Festival. Because of bad weather, we had to relocate the exhibition from the outdoor beer garden to the lobby, where the young students showed off their moves, including board-breaking (above. See more great photos on One World Karate's Facebook page!). It made for a packed lobby, but none of the other theatergoers messed with them!

Those weren't our only guests on Friday; we brought Jessica herself into town for the Festival! In addition to introducing the film, conducting a Q&A, and signing autographs (right, with fan Caity Masey), Jessica did several media interviews with Film Festival Coordinator William Greer, agreed to speak to the student body of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, and participated in the martial arts exhibition. Unstoppable indeed!

A Brave Heart movie poster. A young woman with a gaunt face, long brown hair, and one cloudy eye smiles at the camera. Text is super imposed over half of her face.2015 SXSW Audience Award-winning documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story took top billing on Saturday. Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Austinite Velasquez was bullied as a child for looking different. The film recounts details of her physical and emotional journey, from bullying victim to anti-bullying activist.

After the film, we were thrilled to bring Lizzie and her parents to the theater for an audience Q&A (below, answering a question from fan and sponsor Michael Akinosi)! We couldn't have planned a more engaging, powerful way to close the Festival, and it was clear the audience agreed: they gave Lizzie a standing ovation when she entered the theater and couldn't wait to get her autograph afterwards.

Shot from over the tops of theater seats, four people stand in front of a blank movie screen, all looking at another person at the side of the audience who is gesturing with both hands.

As we wrapped up the theater, we got another affirming surprise: our staff noted that some of the wheelchair seats in our theater were too close to a ledge and potentially unsafe. A Drafthouse manager put in a maintenance request to address the problem, and we received word later that they have been approved. It's a small detail, but is one more way that Cinema Touching Disability is removing barriers!

Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival & Short Film Competition is made possible in 2015 by generous support from our 2015 Film Fest sponsors.

We also extend our thanks to:

girlstart     Texas Advocates       Girl Scouts of Central Texas     Women's Community Center of Central Texas

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