Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

the 18th Annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival OCT 15-16, 2021. Lost Reel Short Film Showcase AUG 16-SEPT 15, 2021.

Thanks to the 2021 Short Film Competition Judges!

2021 Documentary Division Results


Film Poster for Diseased and Disorderly: A woman with short brown hair, a crown of flowers, and a bright red shirt with flowers, looks down in concentration at a large page she's drawing on with a pencil. A drawn figure with flowers on its heads stands behind her. The title of the film appears overhead, with the words A Film by Eden and Andrew Kotting in a handwriting font.

Dir. Andrew Kötting. United Kingdom
DISEASED AND DISORDERLY is a film that uses the paintings, drawings and collages of the neurodiverse artist Eden Kötting to make imagistic gold. Assisted by her father, Andrew Kötting, the 2D animator Glenn Whiting, and the 3D animator Isabel Skinner, the collaboration takes us on a phantasmagorical journey into a world of Eden's making and then beyond. Website | Facebook | Instagram


Image of Blurred out blue and green lights against a black background.

Dir. Roberto Santaguida. Canada
In the beginning, there was nothing. You can get nothing easily.


TBI & My Longest Ride film poster: a man in athletic clothes and a helmet walks a bike away from the camera. The film title appears in orange text by his head.

Dir. Cheryl Green, Karl Moritz. United States
Karl Kajomo Moritz faced the ultimate life change when he was bicycle commuting home from work in 2010 and was hit head on by a car and spent five weeks in a coma. Kajomo developed a healing plan with healthy eating, acupuncture, speech therapy, neurofeedback, and high cardio velodrome track riding. He embarked on what he calls spinning for neurogenesis: improving cognition and overall brain bandwidth and reconnecting with his sons and his community. Funded by a generous grant from Regional Arts & Culture Council.



Film poster for the Beautiful Colors of Jeremy Sicile-Kira: closeup of a frowning man with a moustache and bread in profile.Light green blurs dot the foreground. Superimposed over the image are award laurels in black, the title of the film in pink and purple bold text, and the words A Film By Aaron Lemle in purple italics.

Dir. Aaron Lemle. United States
Jeremy Sicile-Kira uses painting to transcend his disability and communicate his dreams to others.


Film poster for Vernos Florecer: a painting of fifteen women, holding signs, making signs in their hands, or raising their arms, most smiling. Above them, blooms sprout from the words Vernos Florecer.

Dir. Claudia Castellàn, Huayra Bello. Guatemala
In January 2020, the Women with the Ability to Dream in Color (Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores) collective and the METOCA organization conducted the first Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory exclusively for women with disabilities. In Sololà, Guatemala, using their creativity, complicity, pleasure, and collective strength, this group starts to break their silence and change a history of exclusion and violence legitimated by the state, the system and society at large. Trailer


2021 Non-documentary Division Finalists


Film Poster for The Secret Life of Tom Lightfoot: close up of a man in profile who seems to be about to speak. Superimposed on top of the image are film credits and five award laurels.

Dir. Ray Jacobs. United Kingdom
Tom Lightfoot works as a calls operator for "We have the Answers," a call centre which answers anybody's questions about absolutely anything. Tom is secretly studying for a PHD in bird migration, but this is not Tom's secret life; his secret is inside of him. This film is part of a series of films, ˜Secret Lives," that combines the artistry and experiences of UK learning disability group ˜Arty Party," the film direction of Ray Jacobs, and the writings of NYT best selling fantasy author Jeff Vandermeer. Facebook

Second Place (tie): COCOON

Film post for Cocoon: a figure in giant coat with the hood up, obscuring its face, stands on a stack of VHS tapes. The text Cocoon appears in red marker above the image, followed by the film credits in black typewriter font.

Dir. Yavar Darehzami. Islamic Republic of Iran
The short man, under the influence of the media, makes an artificial limb for himself, grows tall, comes out of his house, and we see that everyone is short. Instagram

Second Place (tie): WIGGLE ROOM

Film Poster for Wiggle Room: illustration of a woman wheeling hurriedly through multiple figures: a man getting handcuffed, a woman beckoning with one arm next to a kneeling child, a man with long hair chasing after the woman in the wheelchair. Beneath the image is the film title and credits and Sundance laurels.

Dir. Sam Guest, Julia Baylis. United States
Determined to save her wheelchair ramp from repossession, Daisy confronts the shady insurance agent who owes her money. Website | Instagram

Third Place: SIGN NIGHT

Film Poster for Sign Night: against a dark background, two women mirror each other, looking up and making a BSL sign in front of their faces. Over the image are the words Sign Night in yellow and in white, a short film by Cathy Mager. Two deaf women separated by lockdown unite through sign language in poetic projection. Starring Vilma Jackson and Sophie Stone. Logos of funders.

Dir. Cathy Mager. United Kingdom
Sign Night is a poetic conversation in sign language between two star crossed lovers, projected onto buildings in central Bristol, U.K. The deaf performers share their dreams for the future from building to building, across the night sky. Sign Night is inspired by the balcony performers of Wuhan and Lombardy, this time using British Sign Language (BSL), the vital, visual and versatile language of British deaf communities. Website | Twitter | Instagram



Dir. Stuart Quinn. United Kingdom
Peter is on autism spectrum and lives with a soft toy bear companion called Teddy. The two are inseparable. However, one night he must summon the courage to face a situation he has never faced before and for the first time... without Teddy.


Film poster for Feeling Through: at night, two men in winter clothes sit side by side in front of a grattifi-covered gate. One clasps his hands and looks anxiously to the side. The other holds a notebook calmy in both hands. Below the image, pale yellow text reads Academy award noimation for best live action short film Feeling Through, a film by Doug Roland.

Dir. Doug Roland. United States
FEELING THROUGH, the first film to star a DeafBlind actor, is a coming of age story that follows Tereek, a teen wandering the streets of New York, desperate for a place to crash when he encounters Artie, a DeafBlind man in need of help getting home. From an awkward meeting between strangers emerges an intimate bond, and a journey that forever changes Tereek. Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Still from Signs and Gestures: a smiling woman in an apron holds a red flower to her nose.

Dir. Itandehui Jansen. United Kingdom
Florist Clara relies on smell, touch and sound. She has recently been chatting with art student Simon through a dating app. They arrange to meet in person. However, during their first date an unexpected situation arises. Website | Facebook | Instagram


Within the Silence film poster: Closeup on an elven woman with pointy ears, bright blue eyes, and a leafy tiara, looking hopefully into the distances. In the background is a glowing circle of leaves.The film title is below in a Celtic typeface.

Dir. Jade Tailor. Canada
A young girl, Iris, escapes a tumultuous reality and her abusive father by fleeing deep into her imagination. As she immerses herself in her storybook, she finds that the reality she had once known would quickly fade away. It is there, in the depths of her mind, that she finds hope, a touch of magic, and a place few dare to dream. Instagram


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.

View past years' results

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The 2024 Short Film Competition is open.

Extended registration ($60) closes May 3, and late registration ($80) begins.

The final deadline is June 7.

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