Do you look away from somebody's disability, or do you stare right at it? What are the "rules"?
The truth of the matter is, you shouldn't even notice a difference as something that hinders or separates. The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region and the Arc of Colorado are trying to make that point with the Achieve With Us Colorado Film Festival, happening Thursday at Stargazers Theatre & Event Center.
"When you run across a person with a disability, you don't know how to act or how to accept them," says Wilfred Romero, executive director of the Arc of the Pikes Peak Region. "Individuals would see a disability, and they do not see a capability."
A better attitude can come from the most unexpected places. Craig Severa, advocacy specialist for the local Arc, says he recently saw a child with Down syndrome wearing a T-shirt that read, "I'm really rocking this extra half chromosome."
Another challenge can come from film. A year ago, Severa says, he and Romero left a festival in Denver hosted by Sprout, a New York-based nonprofit that through film and art promotes social awareness of the misconceptions of those with disabilities. "We literally walked out, looked at each other and said at the same time, 'We gotta do this.'"
So they teamed up with Sprout, decided to use a similar format from its last two Denver fests, and got to work.
Choosing the films themselves proved a challenge. Severa and Romero did not just want to find a group of movies focused on, say, Down syndrome to make people cry. In the end, they found roughly a dozen short films, ranging from a few minutes to a half hour, from all over the world. Subjects include challenges faced by parents; people with disabilities struggling to fit in; and what it takes to be in a relationship as a person with a disability.
"They talk about being married, living together and being independent," Romero says, "and a lot of the time that is not really accepted."
All the films have actors or producers with disabilities. One from Australia, Be My Brother, showcases a few moments at a bus stop. What is remarkable is how the main character creates an exceptional human interaction with a stranger that his "normal" brother, sitting close by, could not.
Which just goes to show what Severa has been saying — there's nothing wrong with these men and women. If the brain is a supercomputer, he adds, you can be wired differently without being wired incorrectly.
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.