Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

the 17th Annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival & CTDFF: Online!

October 16 - 18, 2020

Thank you to our 2020 Short Film Competition Judges!

2020 Documentary Division Winners


Dir. Marrock Sedgewick
A film about autism acceptance told from the hands of nonspeaking autistic people.


Dir. Andrew Leibman
A young skateboarder overcomes his personal adversity to find pride in his identity.

3rd Place & Audience Favorite: CHOOSING TO BE A GOOD FRIEND

Dir. Denise Schamens
In the spirit of creating "nothing about us without us," director Denise Schamens puts eight neurodivergent students at the center of this autism acceptance film, six of whom tell their own stories of living with autism. Three other friends and siblings offer their perspectives. All 12- to 16-year-old participants use their own language, which makes these personal accounts authentic platforms on which to build rich discussions about neurodiversity, bullying, and social emotional expression with other middle school students.



Dir. Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen
State Prize awarded disability artist and activist Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen is passionately building sculptures from used assistive devices.


Dir. Joy Harrison
Short film exploring and challenging some of the misrepresentations around Autism. This was created by 12 young people who each experience Autism in their own unique way. Using drama, play & improvisation we explored idea's together during our four day drama workshop. From this we created our script to express how they felt about the various stereo types around what it is to be Autistic. Using the medium of film we produced what we wanted to say from their perspective. This is a heart warming, funny touching and insightful glance at the world as seen through the prism of Autism.


Dir. Zoë Hunter Gordon
A short documentary exploring the challenges of being young and chronically ill in a carefully curated online culture. A real life "superhero," a YouTuber, and a camgirl explain why they choose to share—or hide—their chronic illnesses online. Online you can be anyone: why be ill?


Dir. Andrea Trivero
Daniel Balima is a senior horticulturist from Tenkodogo, a small Sub-Saharan African town in Burkina Faso. Daniel as a child falls ill with polio and, although growing without the use of his legs, he is able to follow his father in the family nursery, walking on his hands. In over fifty years of activity he has given life to more than a million trees and this is what is most important for Daniel


Dir. Skyler DeYoung
Film follows Paul, a 25-year-old with Down syndrome from Cologne, Germany through work, life, and love. Extraordinary is in his DNA.


Dir. Yue Yuan
A deaf delivery rider ventures into the hearing world in Weifang, a third-tier city in eastern China.


Dir. Geoff Groberg
A man with cerebral palsy is supported by his sister as he works toward his dream of obtaining a professional Spiderman costume.


Dir. Alberto Amoretti
The different purposes of the extraordinary exhibition by Josef and Anni Albers: VIBE - Voyage inside a blind experience. The tactile approach allows the audience to “see” a visual image through other senses and vice versa, expanding and challenging the notion of art fruition and aesthetic experience.

2020 Non-documentary Division Winners

1st Place & Audience Favorite: SALTING THE FLY

Dir. Craig Mooneyham & Jacob Reynolds
With a precarious fate approaching, Danny, an autistic teenager, and his older brother David perform a familiar childhood ritual to lighten the gravity of their plight. As time runs out, however, the brothers must leave their childhood behind to confront family demons, challenge futile beliefs, and transcend communication barriers to find solace amidst their crumbling world.

2nd Place: NOISY

Dir. Cedric Hill
Sam gets on the subway to get home. He catches the eye of April. The two of them discover they have way more in common than where they’re heading. Sometimes you need a noisy place to have a quiet conversation.

3rd Place: UPSIDE

Dir. Jim McMorrow
Based on a true story. Stephen, a young man with Down’s Syndrome, wishes to break free from his caring but over-protective mother and celebrate his 18th birthday in the way that he chooses.



Dir. Morgan Tipping
From July 2019 - January 2020 Morgan Tipping co-created The Factory alternative art school with 180 neurodiverse and mobility diverse children, young people, and adults from across Nottinghamshire at The Workhouse, Southwell. The Factory curriculum foregrounded social relationships, experimental processes and sought to disrupt the biopolitical way that power was encoded into social practices in the past and influence people in the present. Casual Terms is a video installation and film where we hear how Workhouses, colonial domestic servility, and indentured labour formed a ‘complete system’ that not only trapped human cargo in the past, but maintains inequality and precarity in the present.


Dir. Sibel Guvenc
A sci-fi drama about an injured dancer's journey towards self-empowerment that powerfully engages with questions of creativity, desire, sexual harassment, disability and the lures and limits of new AI technologies.


Dir. Saeed Pourali
At the end of the last world war, a family wants to escape.


Dir. Breeana Humble
Bullied for her differences, a determined young ballerina with cerebral palsy braves the stage only to be confronted by her greatest fear.

View past years' results

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.

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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