Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

Texas Central America's Bullet Train presents the 16th Annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival & Short Film Competition, October 18 - 19, 2019

October 18 - 19, 2019
Alamo Drafthouse Village

2700 West Anderson Lane, Austin TX, 78757 (map)

2019 Short Film Competition Judges

Documentary Division

First Place FOOTSTEP (dir. Haydar Demirtas)
Hosyar Ali has been voluntarily cleaning mines that are spread all across the Iran – Iraq borderline for 28 years. We follow his footsteps in his home, in the borderline, and in the graves of his son, his brother, and his legs. Learn more about FOOTSTEP (website is in Turkish)

Second Place + Audience Favorite ANDRE THE ANTI-GIANT (dir. Kim Saltarski)
A 3-foot-something actor/comedian/disability advocate strives to retake the stage following a life-endangering diagnosis. Learn more about ANDRE THE ANTI-GIANT

Third Place DEAR DOCTOR (presented by Nothing Down)
At Nothing Down, we often hear of the heartbreaking ways in which many families receive their child's Down syndrome diagnosis. It is our goal to change the narrative and to influence the medical community to ensure that EVERY parent is delivered their child's Down syndrome diagnosis with compassion, up-to-date education, proper resources, and hope. We believe that this film has the strong potential to ignite a much needed change that will benefit all future parents receiving an unexpected diagnosis. Learn more about DEAR DOCTOR

Finalist SCARS (dir. Meredith Koch)
Weightlifting enthusiast Janet Chang inspires body positivity, despite her cerebral palsy diagnosis. View SCARS trailer

Non-documentary Division Finalists

First Place YOUNG ADULT (dir. Jake Yuzna)
On the last day of a summer camp, a teenage girl, Annie, fights to connect with the boy who might be her first love. Not accepting preconceived notions of who she is, Annie refuses these roles and battles against these invisible forces that shape our lives. Learn more about YOUNG ADULT

Second Place (tie) I/O (dir. Carl Hansen)
A man struggles to reveal to his girlfriend that he's been dating her through his robot. Learn more about I/O

Second Place (tie) NO EASY TARGET (dir. Orion James Couling)
NO EASY TARGET is a STAR WARS Fan Film featuring actors with Down Syndrome alongside their peers. The diversity in the film reveals a galaxy rejected society. Let your expectations be blown away as the Jedi show the universe how capable they really are by being resilient, strong, and fighting to bridge the social gap. In this revolution of inclusion, you too can witness the first time a STAR WARS fan film features main action characters with actors who have Down Syndrome. Learn more about NO EASY TARGET

Second Place (tie) + Audience Favorite SWEPT AWAY (dir. Thomas Grascoeur)
Paris. She’s English, he’s French. A rendezvous in a tea room. But there’s more to the story.

Third Place (tie) INCLINATIONS (dir. Danielle Peers & Alice Sheppard)
Choreographed, directed and shot from disability perspectives, this dance-on-video short contrasts the playful connections when disability aesthetics, community, and a ramp meet the institutional histories and discordant inclinations that can lurk just below the surface.

Third Place (tie) LOUDER THAN WORDS (dir. Rachel Larkin)
Amy Clearwell is eleven years old and all she wants is to be the drummer in her school concert band. However, when both her concert band conductor and her father block her from being involved in the band, Amy begins to want something more. She wants them to realise that she can be both talented, and Deaf. Follow LOUDER THAN WORDS

Finalist GASLIT (dir. Naomi Chainey)
A young disabled woman fights to hold on to her identity in the face of the world’s assumptions, and strives for independence from her parents, who doubt her ability to become a mother. Learn more about GASLIT

Finalist HUMAN RESOURCES (dir. Roy Berkeley)
A dying young woman interviews for a job at a nightmarish call center.

Finalist KEEP SHINING (dir. Lisa Sniderman)
Music video for "Keep Shining." View KEEP SHINING

Finalist LOBSTER (dir. Alison Myers)
OK, so Cam's hungover, lost, vomit-stained, dealing with a very rude visitor, and totally in the dark. On the other hand, er, claw, she has an advantage that many Aussies can only dream about. Follow LOBSTER

Finalist THE WAGON (dir. Gayle Knutson)
Hard-edged Aunt Frances and Claire, her niece with Down syndrome, are two vagabond women confronting life’s harsh realities. While Claire pursues her seemingly simple dreams, Frances discovers that their challenging lifestyle on a rundown riverboat is about to be further tested. Features Jamie Brewer (AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Bruce Bohne (FARGO), and Jen Blagen (DRAGONFLY). Learn more about THE WAGON

Finalist TRAGICALLY DEAF (dir. Maxx Corkindale)
Paul is having a great day. He has a loving family, a good job, and enjoys life to the fullest. It’s a pity that the documentary crew following him doesn’t seem to see that…

Finalist UNSPOKEN SPOKEN (dir. fin walker, Ross McGibbon, Ben Park-Composer)
Breaking down the rules that restrict us—those that lie within—those that lie without...


2019 Short Film Competition Judges


Short Film Competition History

A man hands a plaque to a smiling woman. Next to her are three people smiling and looking on, one sitting in a power chair, another holding a yellow flower. In 2007, CTD introduced the Student Film Competition to Cinema Touching Disability. In only a few years, it has become arguably the most popular element of the Festival! The vision behind the Competition is to encourage and empower emerging filmmakers to generate innovative film that addresses social, cultural, and personal perceptions about and experiences with disability. Volunteer judges select the first, second, and third place winners in both categories and a poll during the Festival determines the Audience Favorites. Winners enjoy cash and prizes, interviews with local media outlets, and a public screening of their film at the Festival. Right: CTD's Dennis Borel presents director Debbie Finley with the Grand Prize (Emerging Division) award for MIND OVER POLIO, a documentary featuring Charlotte Ferris (seated).

Six men, five college-age and one older, stand in a line holding up certificates, smiling broadly at the camera.The first year of the Competition, Josh Tate's FORGOTTEN LIVES, a highly acclaimed documentary about abuse of people with disabilities in state schools, took the Grand Prize (College Division).

Judge Chris Garcia, then a film critic for the Austin American-Statesman, called the film "truly eye opening and alarming...smartly and lucidly crafted." Left: Borel with the 2007 College division winners, Josh Tate, Sergio Carvajal, J. Anthony Hernandez, and others.

Zach Anner, a person with cerebral palsy featured in FORGOTTEN LIVES, went on to national stardom with his television show, The Real Zack Anner. Anner won a national competition for potential television show hosts, held by the Oprah Winfrey Network, but he started with Cinema Touching Disability!

Tate went on to win the 2015 Competition's Grand Prize (narrative division) with his short, GUEST ROOM, also an official selection at that year's SXSW Film Festival.

An older man speaking into a microphone hands a certificate to a younger man whose eyes are closed.

During the following few year years, the Competition began to receive more and more excellent films, many from local filmmakers and organizations. Some of our early Competition winners include the Capital Area Boy Scouts (2007), ADAPT of Texas (2008), and several area high school students. We also attracted the attention of young filmmakers from outside of Texas, like Drew Goldsmith, whose shorts have appeared on the PBS documentary series POV (2008, 2011), and students from the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts (2010). Right: Borel presents the 2008 Grand Prize (High School division) plaque to Michael Espinoza for his short "THE WAR TO END ALL WARS."

A man speaking into a tape recorder lounges on a bench, while the woman sitting next to him seems intrigued but hesitant.As the years have passed, Cinema Touching Disability has evolved the Competition to better suit our vision. For example, initially, the Competition was aimed at high school and college students, but in 2009, we opened it up to filmmakers of all ages. That year, we began to receive films from outside the United States, including Grand Prize winner (Emerging division), MON AMI CLAUDE, from Canada. With the incorporation of an online submission system a few years later, we saw increased participation from entrants all over the world. Now, filmmakers from outside the US routinely place as finalists or winners in our Competition. Grand prize winners in 2013 and 2014 for example, came all the way from Australia and Turkey, respectively. At our most recent Festival, winning entries arrived from the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia. Left (last one on this page): Still from 2013 Grand Prize winner and Audience Favorite "BE MY BROTHER, submitted by Genevieve Clay of Australia.

CTD is proud that our Short Film Competition not only has grown to allow us to share the best disability shorts in the world with our audience; it also draws international attention to Austin as a disability film hub.

View past years' results


The Cinema Touching Disability Short Film Competition is your opportunity to share your view of disability with our audience. We want interesting, imaginative, and creative representations of disability on film. All filmmakers, including professional, independent, amateur, secondary level school, and university students, are encouraged to submit their own representations of disability.

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The 2024 Short Film Competition is open.

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The final deadline is June 7.

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