Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

21st annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, September 27 and 28, 2024, The Long Center

2024 Short Film Competition

Thank you to our 2024 Short Film Competition volunteer judges

Semi-finalists: Non-Documentary Division

A Tale of Sword and Smoke
Dir. Michael Strachan Brown, United Kingdom
A Tale of Swords and Smoke is the epic story of two young adventurers journeying across a far away land. This film is produced by ArtWorks South Yorkshire. Artworks is a not for profit creative arts organisation, inspiring and supporting adults with learning disabilities to achieve their potential and develop important life skills through creative workshops and placements. 

AhmadReza Buffon
Dir. Morteza Shahbazi, The Islamic Republic of Iran
The teenagers of a village are preparing for a football match. They forcibly play with a disabled teenager and a stranger who is very interested in goalkeeping and the Italian goalkeeper Buffon. Follow director Morteza Shahbazi on Instagram @MortezaShahbaziOfficial.

Existing Patient
Dir. Aaron Abolt, United States
A chronically ill woman fights to get her medication approved, encountering endless phone trees, unhelpful representatives, and stock photo families along her journey through healthcare bureaucracy.

Dance Out Loud
Dir. Dmitry Zimin, Russian Federation
In this short screen-dance film, spectators witness the emotional landscapes of individuals in their daily lives, and dance creates a safer space for their feelings' expression. Throughout, the film shines a spotlight on people with disabilities, celebrating their creative potential in the film industry.

Dir. Spencer MacKay, Canada
The film follows two people living with disabilities, one in a wheelchair and one living with a visual impairment, as the two must come together to help one another survive an active threat emergency at their university campus.

Mandy's Voice
Dir. Roxanna Lewis, United States
A curious and intelligent nonspeaking autistic girl struggles to communicate. Her mother is desperate to provide the necessary tools for survival in a world where if one is without a voice ~ one is perceived as invisible as well. Follow the project on its website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @MandysVoiceFilm.

Dir. Debbie Hannan, United Kingdom
Comedy set during a high school prom about a girl's last chance to let the girl of her dreams know how she feels about her. 

Pyramid of Disunion
Dir. Ella Glendining, Jessi Gutch, United Kingdom
Angel attends a conscious uncoupling retreat, only to find that her ex is there.

The Ramp
Dir. Juanfer Andrés, Spain
Justo has to carry her granddaughter Lola (a girl with cerebral palsy) up the stairs outside her house every day. He decides go to a meeting of her residents' association to ask for install a ramp.

Traveling Light
Dir. Alexis Karl, United States
Traveling Light, a short dance film celebrating performers with disabilities, reveals the language of movement as a profound form of communication. The film explores human connections and community as well as our inevitable link to nature. Follow the tightly-knit community on their symbolic journey into the woods. They carry only the experiences, memories, and dreams that matter to them.

Dir. Nibhal Bajracharya, Nepal
Upon hearing the name of the color "Turquoise" for the first time, an elderly couple have a captivating conversation about colors, reflecting upon their lifetime's perceptions and interpretations of various colors. 

We're Too Good For This
Dir. Missy Malek, United Kingdom
A group of deaf and disabled friends decide to get into drug-dealing as payback against a bully.

Semi-finalists: Documentary Division

Colorful Souls
Dir. Abby Cannon, United States
"Colorful Souls" spotlights Alma de Colores, a unique restaurant and store that predominantly employs individuals with disabilities, providing them with a sense of dignity and community through the opportunity to work. Learn more about the Actuality Abroad project that sends impact-driven storytellers around the world on their website, Instagram, or Facebook.

In the Sea
Dir. Clara Isabelle Linhart, Rodrigo de Oliveira Garcia, Brazil
A professor travels to swim for 8km in Rio de Janeiro. He narrates the sensations of spending hours alone in the sea, unveiling issues such as the autonomy of the use of his body, the ableist discourse of overcoming, and racial inequality in his country. Follow the project on Instagram @NoMarDocumentario.

Invisible Barriers
Dir. Iban Colón, Spain
"Invisible Barriers" looks at the lives of three young people with functional diversity: Ylenia, Lorién and Elson have to face architectural barriers in their daily lives and in their educational environment, as well as other more hidden barriers.

Pasture & Storm
Dir. Chris Frazer Smith, United Kingdom
Triumph over adversity through the power of music entwining skill and historical music nuances overcoming diversity, disability, inclusivity and inclusion. Follow the filmmaker on his website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @CFrazer Smith.

Rising Tides, Raising Voices
Dir. Jody Kristina Santos, Samoa
The Pacific region is among the most impacted in the world by climate change. As part of a legacy of systemic oppression, Indigenous Pacific Islanders with disabilities are particularly at risk. Because they are less likely to be formally employed, their livelihoods depend on fishing and farming – which have been significantly affected by climate change. Rising Tides, Raising Voices is a call for intersectional, inclusive, community-led solutions to the encroaching global crisis. Learn more about the Disability Justice, which produces documentaries by and about people with disabilities, on its website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @DisabilityJusticeProject.

Seeing Notes
Dir. Vytas Cuplinskas, United States
Discover a little known gem in the heart of the Big Apple – a community music school that serves students of all ages that are living with vision loss. A school that has been engaged with the blind and visually impaired community for over a century helping its students develop their musical skills while learning the skills necessary to navigate life independently.

Sound Tracks
Dir. John Schaffer, United States
Two autistic artists, a photographer and a composer, share a “conversation” about their art and their lives as adults on the autism spectrum. Follow Wild Asperagus Productions at their website or on Facebook.

Stoop Chat
Dir. Marj Kleinman, Gabriella Canal, United States
“Stoop Chat with Jimmy & Shanaya” follows the unlikely friendship of blind Brooklyn poet, “Harmonica Jimmy,” and his younger neighbor, Shanaya, as they forge an uplifting bond based on their love of poetry, music, and the things that make New York, New York. Learn more about the Stoop Stories project on their website, or follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @Stoop.Stories.

The Duchenne Race
Dir. Arantza Ibarra Basáñez, Spain
"The Duchenne Race" follows the lives of Quique, Uriel, Iren, and Alejandro, who are facing Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Quique leads the organization of a popular race in Jaca to raise awareness about this disease. The documentary explores the daily challenges, hopes, and shared struggles of those affected by this illness. The race becomes a symbol of unity and support, revealing stories of courage, love, and determination in the fight against Duchenne. Learn more about the project on its website, or follow the production company on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @YaqDistribucion.

These Are The Sounds I Make
Dir. Andy Bambach, Suzanne Whiteman, Australia
Simi a young woman with disabilities communicates in many different ways from making sounds and gestures to using conversation cards and new technologies. She enjoys getting out into nature, dancing, creating art, connecting with friends and being involved in decisions that affect her. 

Turn Up The Bass
Dir. Ted Evans, United Kingdom
'Turn Up The Bass' tells the remarkable and little-known story of Troi Lee, aka DJ Chinaman, the unstoppable force behind the UK's deaf music and rave scene. 20 years of archive footage is interwoven with interviews and actuality, charting Troi's evolution from underground raver to festival headliner. Hackney-born Troi has dedicated his career to breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for deaf artists and performers, challenging misconceptions and fighting prejudice to show that deaf people can also enjoy, experience and make music. The film joins Troi as he puts on his 20 year anniversary show in London - showcasing deaf and disabled dancers, MCs, rappers and sign singers. Through heavy bass and deep vibrations, he connects audiences through the universal language of music. Follow the project on its website or follow the production company on Instagram @GaloreProductions.

Uncharted Destiny
Dir. Ray Levier, United States
After a near-fatal test flight crash, a retired Air Force commander experiences a biochemical fusion with an alien spacecraft, leading to a cosmic journey that reveals his true identity and connects him with an alien civilization at the edge of the universe. Follow along with the project on its website

Winners TBD



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 2024 film lineup:

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