Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

20th annual Cinema Touching Disability FIlm Festival, October 20-21, 2023, 6:30 - 10 pm, Rollins Theater

2023 Short Film Competition

Thank you to our 2023 Short Film Competition volunteer judges!

Winners: Non-Documentary Division

3 movie poster. Close up of a man's face with a breathing mask; an interabled cartoon couple walks into the sunset; a worried woman sitting at a table.

First Place + Audience Favorite: Take Me Home
Dir. Liz Sargent, United States
After their mother’s death, a cognitively disabled woman and her estranged sister must learn to communicate in order to move forward. Pictured above right. Learn more about the film at and on Instagram @take_me_home_film.

Second Place: Culicidae
Dir. Greg Moran, Australia
A late night intrusion leads to a life and death struggle. Pictured above left. Learn more about the film at

Third Place: Smash or Pass
Dir. Cory Reeder, United States
Dating pool or cesspool? They both Stink! After being dumped by her long-term boyfriend, Ariel tries app dating for the very first time. Pictured above center.

Winners: Documentary Division

3 movie posters: An old man gazes into the distance; a woman with thick glasses holds a fencing sword up in front of her face; an old man closes his deep set eyes.

First Place + Audience Favorite: Carpenter
Dir. Xelîl Sehragerd, Islamic Republic of Iran
An old Kurdish man (Hussein Mahmood) who is a carpenter tries to make artificial legs for people who have lost their legs. Pictured above left. Follow Director Xelil Sehragern on Instagram @khalil.sahragard.

Second Place: Elsa
Dir. Cameron S. Mitchell, United States
Elsa Sjunneson is a DeafBlind professor and media critic, skilled fencer and hiker, and published author who has written for Marvel Comics and won the Hugo award for Science Fiction twice. Through the pen and the sword, Elsa takes us on a journey to see the world through a perspective that’s hardly, if ever, been seen before. Pitcured above center. Learn more about the film at and on Facebook /elsathedocumentary.

Third Place: I Won't Remain Alone
Dir. Yaser Talebi, Islamic Republic of Iran
Seyed Jalal, a blind 86 years old man, and his wife Bibi Soraya, 80 years old with chronic nerve disease, live in poverty conditions. They got devastating news about their son's brain death. The old fragile blind father has to make a decision whether to donate his son’s healthy parts to help 16 other patients. Pictured above right. Follow Director Yaser Talebi on Instagram @yasertalebi.



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 2023 film lineup:

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The 2024 Short Film Competition is open.

Late registration ($80) is open now!

The final deadline is June 7.

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