Arts & Events

Movies in the Margin: The Disability Film Festival, the UN Film Festival, and Films on Fracking

Gar Smith
Friday October 21, 2016 - 12:48:00 PM

The Disability Film Festival

Screenings on Saturday, October 22 at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley and Sunday, October 23 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Superfest, the world's longest-running disability film festival. Since it first debuted in a small Los Angeles showcase in 1970, Superfest: The International Disability Film Festival has become an eagerly anticipated international event—co-hosted by San Francisco's Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Paul K. Longmore Institute.

Hollywood has had a long and feverish romance with disease and disability (c.f., Love Story, My Left Foot, A Beautiful Mind, The Theory of Everything) but these award-winning blockbusters frequently have left the disabled community feeling jilted. Hence, the Superfest.

As a blog on the Longmore Institute website puts it: "We [no longer] have to settle for the typical fare of nondisabled actors getting Oscars for playing disabled people in ways that promote pity and helplessness. We know that disability isn't just about Kleenex™ boxes and suicide."




Superfest is one of the few festivals, in the US or abroad, that is completely accessible to disabled filmgoers. All films are screened with captioning and audio-descriptions and all live dialogue (with filmmakers, comics, and guests) will be accompanied by live captioning and rendered in American Sign Language. This year's filmmakers will be coming from Israel, Italy, France, England, and Canada. 

The two-day event begins in Berkeley on October 22, at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life (2121 Allston Way) before moving to San Francisco for additional screenings at The Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission Street). 

The eleven films on thia year's docket will introduce you to some remarkable people whose stories deserve to be pure box-office gold. The stories will captivate. You may find yourself falling in love with the characters engaged in these tales of trial, tribulation and transcendence. (Warning: You mght even find yourself tearing-up while watching some of the trailers included below.) 

Advance tickets for sale now at: 

Special Event: The 4:30-6PM awards ceremony in Berkeley will honor Pixar's Academy Award®-winning Producer Jonas Rivera (Inside Out, Up) and Post-Production Supervisor Paul Cichocki who will receive the Superfest's first-ever Producer's Award "for the advancement of disability and film." 

With the backing of Pixar and Disney, Rivera and Cichocki have revolutionized the accessibility of the films to all audiences. Thanks to Pixar's new audio-description app, anyone who is blind or has low vision can now stream audio description for any Pixar film right over their smart phone in real-time. Superfest predicts that this kind of "total film content access" will soon be adopted industry-wide. 

Pixar also wins Superfest plaudits for its 2016 release, Finding Dory, an animated feature that garnered widespread praise from the disability community for its presentation of the title character's short-term memory loss—which was depicted, not as a crippling disability, but as a challenge that encouraged other characters to create solutions. 

While Superfest promotes the positive, it also takes time to "guffaw at the worst in disability film." Each year, Superfest bestows a "Dissie" (the equivalent of the Golden Raspberry Award's "Razzies") on a film that "completely misses the mark about disability." 

This year's Dissie goes to Me Before You, a film that triggered protests across the country for what was characterized as a "disability snuff film." The MGM feature told the story of a rich, good-looking, "man of privilege" who becomes a quadriplegic and concludes that his best option is to commit suicide. 

The runners-up included: Don't Breathe (three young thieves break into a house and are terrorized by a blind veteran) and Gregory Go Boom (a "dark comedy" in which a paraplegic man fails at dating and sets himself on fire). 

Festival coordinator Emily Beitiks explains what sets Superfest apart: "With disabled comedians as our emcees and presentations from disability community leaders, [Superfest] is a place for the community to come together and celebrate disability as a creative and generative force—something that the majority of Hollywood does not yet understand." 

Here is the Festival Schedule 

Different films will be shown both days. Each venue will include filmmakers along with Q&A sessions and moderated discussions. (For more detail on specific films, go to: 

Saturday, October 22: 1-4PM 

Terminal Device (Canada). Written, directed, and produced by Ross Turnbull. 


Terminal Device Trailer from Ross Turnbull on Vimeo


Supersonic (England)—Best of Festival, Short. Directed by Samuel Dore, written by Cihan Narin, produced by Maverick Litchfield-Kelly. 


Supersonic Promo from Neath Films on Vimeo


Yam's Journey (Israel). Directed, written, and produced by Rubi Gat. 

October 22: 6PM 

Double Discrimination (England). Disability Justice Award. Written and directed by Rinkoo Barpaga. 

Best and Most Beautiful Things (United States). Best of Festival, Feature. Written and directed by Garrett Zevgetis; produced by Ariana Garfinkel, Jeff Consiglio, Garrett Zevgetis, and Jordan Salvatoriello. 


Sunday, October 23: 1PM 

Zoufs (Belgium). Written and directed by Tom Boccara, Noe Reutenauer, and Emilien Vekemans; produced by Jean-Yves and Cassandre Waranauts. 

The Right to be Rescued (United States). Advocacy Award. Directed by Jordan Melograna, produced by Jordan Melograna and Mark Stroh 

Like If . . . (Italy). Directed by Daniele Bonari; written by Michele Squillace. 


Trailer - Come se.. from Poti Pictures on Vimeo


The Sea Reminds Me (England). Directed by Ray Jacobs, Jonathan Tritton; written by Ray Jacobs, Mervyn Bradley, and Jonathan Tritton. 


Hear Me (France). Written and directed by Nicolas Coquet; produced by Thierry Etienne, Anne Etienne, Nicolas Capdeville, and Nicolas Coquet. 

Awake (England). Liane Yasumoto Jury's Choice Award. Written and directed by Michael Achtman, produced by Caglar Kimyonc. 



UN Film Festival, October 20-30  

Celebrating 19 Years of Documentary Filmmaking with 60 Films from around the World 

The United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF), now in its 19th year, is recognized as one of the oldest and most respected documentary film festivals in the United States. Founded by Stanford educator and film critic Jasmina Bojic, this year's event will present 11 days of documentaries from Afghanistan, Argentina, Cuba, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Syria, South Africa and the US. 

The theme for this year, "Compass for a Better World," continues the ongoing celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and focuses on the various aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The films will be screened from October 20-30 at locations in Palo Alto, Stanford University, East Palo Alto, and San Francisco and include works by several Bay Area filmmakers. 

UNAFF’s mission has expanded to broad, year round programs that augment its reach. In addition to the annual film festival, UNAFF organizes panel discussions, initiates programs that engage children, students, seniors, veterans, hosts a traveling festival which keeps the films alive well beyond their initial festival showings and opens its doors to documentary film students and researchers. 

Topics in this year's festival include: climate change, the impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales, gun control, the capture and counting of votes in our elections, the evolution of political media, efforts to restore violins recovered from the Holocaust, Islamic seminars for children, refugees using the power of theater, the future of our food, extinction of bees, homelessness, women in Internet technology, race on college campuses, the only health clinic that serves undocumented immigrants in the US, collateral damage in the War on Drugs, veterans mental health, and criminal justice. 

The Festival’s 6 World Premieres Include:  

Boy 23 (Brazil) 

Finding Oscar (Guatemala/US)
How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story (Ireland/UK/US) 

Stolen Youth: Political Prisoner of the Dictatorship (Argentina/Sweden/US) 

Surviving International Boulevard: Domestic Child Sex Trafficking (US) 

Under the Turban (Argentina/Canada/India/Italy/Singapore/UK/US) 




16 documentaries will have their US premieres in the Festival including:  

The Longest Race (Ethiopia/Kenya/Spain) 

7 Days in Syria (Italy, Syria, US) 

Agents of Change (US) 

Among the Believers (Afghanistan/Pakistan/US) 

Cast from the Storm (Australia) 

Children Deported: Farida (Afghanistan/Norway) 

Dresden Refuge (Germany/Spain) 

Dugma—The Button (Norway/Syria) 

El Poeta (Mexico/US) 

The Empty Room (Belgium/France/Syria) 

Nefertiti’s Daughters (Egypt) 

Non Assistance (France/Italy/Malta/Spain/Switzerland) 

Petals in the Dust: The Endangered Indian Girls (Canada/India/US) 

Swim for Life (France) 

Welcome to Refugeestan (France/Greece/Jordan/Kenya/Macedonia/Sweden/Switzerland/Tanzania/UK) 

Why Are the Bees Dying? (Germany) 

The complete schedule is available online at this link: 

Navajo Math Circles 


Local filmmaker/director George Csicsery will be joined by mathematicians Tatiana Shubin and David Eisenbud along with Hopi-Navajo teacher Duane Yazzi for a Q&A following the screening of his film, Navajo Math Circles at 11:15 AM, October 22 at the Mitchell Park Community Center (3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto). Admission is free. 

UNAFF is committed not only to presenting films, but also creating spaces where audience members can engage in ongoing dialogue about the subjects at hand. Six FREE panel discussions will take place during the course of the Festival covering the preciousness of each child, guns and society, the crossroads of civil rights, fear, prejudice, and race, arts for social change, and the intersection of health and ethics. 

It was founded by Stanford educator and film critic Jasmina Bojic.  

In 2014 the ICFT (International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication of UNESCO) presented the UNESCO Fellini Medal to Jasmina Bojic, Founder and Executive Director of UNAFF, in recognition of her exceptional contribution in promoting the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the art of documentary film.  


Films Against Fracking: Hosted by the Oakland Institute 

October 25, 7pm at The New Parkway Theater 

Despite serious environmental and social concerns, hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking")—the process of drilling deep into the ground and using a toxic mixture of high-pressure water to shatter layers of rock to release oil and gas—has broken loose across California. 

This upcoming Tuesday, the Oakland Institute will be hosting a special screening of two short films on the fight against fracking at the community-run New Parkway (474 24th Street, Oakland between Telegraph and Broadway). 


Dear Governor Brown looks at the contradictions of Gov. Jerry Brown—considered the “greenest” Governor in the US by some, but simultaneously encouraging growing fracking production in the region—and explores fracking in our state.  

Faith Against Fracking looks at the role of faith leaders from multiple backgrounds in forming alliances and contributing to the struggle to end fracking. 

Following the films, the Oakland Institute's Elizabeth Fraser will moderate a discussion on the anti-fracking movement in California, featuring Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights and David Braun of Americans Against Fracking. 

The New Parkway offers diverse programming, good food and beer selections, theaters filled with couches instead of rowed seating, and manifests a strong commitment to fair labor standards and environment preservation. 

Tickets are available for $10 online or at the theater boxoffice: