Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

November 1- 2, 2013


In 2004, CTD staffer William Greer had an idea: “We need to create a film festival to counter negative stereotypes about people with disabilities and to celebrate positive portrayals of disability culture. Since cinema plays an important role in American culture, film is an effective medium to reach and engage a large and diverse audience.” That year, CTD held its first annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, screening and discussing films that illustrate how well, and how poorly, people with disabilities are portrayed in motion pictures. It was the first film festival in Texas with an explicit focus on cross-disability films. Since its foundation, it has grown to be the longest running and most successful disability film festival in the state.

The Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival broke ground from its first year. Attendees viewed the very first cinematic portrayal of disability: The Fake Beggar, an 1898 short by Thomas Edison. CTD also premiered Shattering Stereotypes on Mt. Everest. This documentary tells the story of the award-winning Team Everest '03, the first team of people with disabilities to reach the base camp of Mt. Everest. Gary Guller, the team leader and the first person with one arm to reach the top of Mt. Everest, introduced this film at the festival.

Tim Sharp poses with fans in the Alamo Drafthouse lobby.Since its inception, Cinema Touching Disability audiences have enjoyed a wide variety of short and feature films, television series, and web series, from documentaries to animation pieces to silent films. In addition, CTD works each year to expand and reinvent the festival by bringing in special guests and incorporating extra features. In 2005, the Festival featured What's Eating Gilbert Grape, preceded by an exclusive interview with star Darlene Cates. Several years later, Dr. Temple Grandin granted CTD an exclusive interview, which the festival screened in conjunction with 2009 feature Temple Grandin. This interview also earned CTD a prestigious Barbara Jordan Media Award. Other special guests include Tim Sharp (left), Australian creator of Laser Beak Man (2010), and Dave Alan Johnson, creator of Canadian television series Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2011, via Skype) , among a host of filmmakers, documentary subjects, and film scholars.

In 2007, CTD introduced the Student Film Competition to the Festival, giving high school and college students an opportunity to share their own viewpoints about disability through film. As the festival has grown in acclaim and as the competition has evolved, participation among young and emerging filmmakers has increased dramatically. Expanding the age range of entrants and incorporating an online submission system has allowed us to accept and screen short films from all over the world! The grand prizewinner in 2012, for example, came all the way from Iran.

After ten years, many awards (see full list below), and countless feature and short films, Cinema Touching Disability has found a happy home in the Austin film and disability communities. There is still much to be done to break down the barriers that face filmmakers with disabilities and the disability community in general, and the festival is proud to be at the forefront of these efforts.

Cinema Touching Disability Awards

Barbara Jordan Media Award for Special Contribution by an Organization
Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities Media Award
Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities Media Award
Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities Media Award
Barbara Jordan Media Award for Special Contribution by an Organization (for interview with Dr. Temple Grandin)


The 2013 film lineup: