Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

the 19th Annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival OCT 14-15, 2022. Lost Reel Short Film Showcase AUG 16-SEPT 15, 2022

2023 Short Film Competition opens Friday, January 27!

Submit your film and it could screen at this year's Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, plus win a cash prize! Visit our Film Freeway page for full details. Important dates:

2022 Finalists: Documentary

First Place + Audience Favorite: Whale Eyes

Dir. James Alden Robinson
United States
In the this New York Times Opinion Video, James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine, shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions that have defied an array of treatments and caused him countless humiliations. Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes. But his video is also an essay on seeing, in the deeper sense of the word — seeing and being seen, recognition and understanding, sensitivity and compassion, the stuff of meaningful human connection. In a society that does a lousy job of accommodating the disabled, Mr. Robinson appeals for more acceptance of people who are commonly perceived as different or not normal. “I don’t have a problem with the way that I see,” he says. “My only problem is with the way that I’m seen.” This is a student film.

Second Place: Anjela

Dir. Vilma Kartalska
Anjela Pencheva has had Cerebral Palsy since birth, but the difficult diagnosis has never broken her spirit and has turned her into a writer, an actress and a dancer. Through her work and with her computer generated voice, she participates in various initiatives for the rights of the people with disabilities and inspires everyone who has met her.

Third Place: Isolation

Dir. Terry Galloway, Diane Wilkins
United States
This short film introduces us to KC, a tomboy with cp, who escaped well-meant but oppressive over protectiveness to find fun freedom in their queer identity, until Covid threw them back into isolation.

Finalist: Bittersweet

Dir. Christopher Paik-Swan
An intimate observational documentary that follows a mother of three as she cares for her son with a disability. This documentary was made to create awareness for Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) by observing how it affects a four year old boy and his family. This is a student film.

2022 Finalists: Non-documentary

First Place: Say Again?

Dir. Kelley Bell
United States
A micro short comedy where gestures during a COVID-19 masked conversation get a bit out of hand.

Second Place + Audience Favorite: Seife

Dir. Riccardo Di Gerlando
Hadamar 1938. A young man with disabilities is taken to a clinic for some experimental treatments.

Third Place: Safe Distance

Dir. Rona Soffer
The clip is based on David Avidan’s song with added words and rap by the creator, reflecting a longing for the past and for the future dovetailed by the movement of the wheelchair and the bicycle.

Finalist: Dribble

Dir. Ali Lavarimonfared, Nazafarin Hassanpour
Islamic Republic of Iran
Passion in soccer causes affection between brothers. This is a student film.

Finalst: Invisible Manners

Dir. John Lee Taggart
United Kingdom
A short animated poem which hopes to inspire and motivate a change in perception to those affected by invisible not all that you see, is everything that's there. On Facebook at /Niemann-Pick UK. On Twitter @NiemannPickUK. On Instagram @niemannpickuk.

Finalist: Overgrown

Dir. Annabeth Olivia Mellon
United States
Rose has lived alone in her little garden for as long as she can remember; she doesn't speak because she doesn't need to. Although she struggles with debilitating anxiety, she finds great comfort in her cozy routine of caring for her flowers and brushing her beautiful hair. The only imperfection in her perfect world? A nosy old neighbor. On Facebook at /overgrownfilm. On Instagram @overgrown_shortfilm

Thank you to the 2022 Short Film Competition volunteer judges, Ali Nichols, Ethan Valdes, Sam Guest, and Matthew S. Alaniz!



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


The 2022 film lineup:

Submit to the Film Festival

Click to submit with FilmFreeway

The 2024 Short Film Competition is open.

Late registration ($80) is open now!

The final deadline is June 7.

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