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.

2021 Wrap up

Like its predecessor, 2021 was a year packed with unknowns and challenges—but it also had its bright spots, and we count this year’s Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival and Lost Reel Short Film Showcase among them!

Our Fest season began in August, with the launch of our Lost Reel Short Film Showcase, a 30-day online celebration of disability short films from all over the world. To build our Lost Reel program, we select finalists from our short film competition that weren’t winners, but were outstanding nonetheless.

Both documentary and narrative shorts made up this year’s showcase, including: a Finnish artist's statement about "disrupting purity" (Alternative Way of Being Human), a Deaf skateboarder's discovery of pride in his own identity (Sign at All Times: A Film about Brian Estrada, below), and a story of a young man with Down Syndrome claiming his independence (Upside). View the full Lost Reel line up!

Close up of Brian, in a black beanie and black shirt, looking into the camera with a slightly furrowed brow. A blurred street corner is in the background.

We kicked off the Lost Reel with a live screening of 2 films that looked at art and disability acceptance—Casual Terms and Alternative Way of Being Human—followed by a chat with the directors, Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen (below) & Morgan Tipping.

Screenshot of Jenni-Juulia on a Zoom call. She's wears a multi-colored top, which stands out against the darkness of her room, as do bright, multi-colored sculptures in the background. She appears to mid-sentence, smlling broadly.

We closed with a live screening of 2 more films that explored very different relationships between people with disabilities and their families—Upside (below) and Salting the Fly—plus a chat with the directors, Jim McMorrow and Craig Mooneyham.

Poster for UPSIDE: a man in glasses with a backpack and a woman whose blond hair is hiding her face are facing each other in conversation. Film information is superimposed at the top and bottom of the image.

The following month, we held our 18th annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, October 15 & 16. This year’s event was also completely virtual, streaming to viewers all over Texas and as far away as Singapore!

We opened each night with winners of our international short film competition, the best of 113 entries from 25 different counties. First place in our documentary division went to Diseased and Disorderly (below), from the UK, a phantasmagorical journey into the world of neurodiverse artist Eden Kötting through her drawings, paintings, and collages.

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.

In the non-documentary division of this year’s competition, The Secret Life of Tom Lightfoot, also from the UK, took first place. This modern fairy tale features a cast of actors with developmental disabilities, and hits home an important message for these trying times: you are not alone. Go behind the scenes in a local review of The Secret Life of Tom Lightfoot. View the full results of this year’s competition!

In addition to the shorts, we screened two award-winning disability documentaries from recent years. Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, THE REASON I JUMP is an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida's revelatory insights into autism with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people.

Following THE REASON I JUMP, we hosted a panel discussion with actors on a mission to shatter stereotypes about disability (below). Members of the ground-breaking Austin-based TILT Performance Group, all people with autism, talked about their own creative processes and reasons for making inclusive theater and art.

Screen shot of a Zoom call with five people, some smiling, some frowning.

We also featured celebrated biopic NOT GOING QUIETLY. In it, a rising star in progressive politics and a new father, 32-year-old Ady Barkan’s life is upended when he is diagnosed with ALS. But after a confrontation with powerful Senator Jeff Flake on an airplane goes viral, catapulting him to national fame, Ady and a motley crew of activists ignite a once-in-a-generation political movement called “Be a Hero.” We were thrilled that Ady joined the Fest by video with closing comments to his film (below).

Screenshot of Ady sitting in his power chair, looking meaningfully out at the camera. He has a ventilator tube at his throat and his speaking device is visible in the foreground.

In conjunction with NOT GOING QUIETLY, CTD's Dennis Borel chatted with some of Austin's own fixtures in the disability advocacy community. Renee Lopez and Danny Saenz, long time advocates with ADAPT of Texas, among other organizations, talked about their introduction to self-advocacy and the decades of activism that followed.


As always, thank you for joining us at this year's Fest and enjoying these films with us! One thing that another year of the pandemic hasn't changed: our commitment to breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, on screen and off. Thank you our sponsors and short film competition judges for their support! Plans are underway for 2022, we’ll see you next year!

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