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article imageOp-Ed: 'Marvelous' Superfest event highlighted disability with 52 films Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 10, 2014 in Entertainment
San Francisco - With over 52 films from all over the world, organizers of the annual Superfest disability-celebrating film festival considered the event this past November 2, "a marvelous day, highlighting the intersections of disability, art and film.
And, as some described it, a "paramount get-together for the disability community." Over 325 people attended the one-day screenings, held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. As an international film festival, "we were able to showcase eleven groundbreaking films selected by a panel of disabled judges covering an astounding array of topics dear to our hearts, and those of our patrons," said Jennifer Sachs, director of development for the Lighthouse for The Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco. She served as media coordinator this year and alerted the press on behalf of Superfest.
"'The Interviewer', was winner of Best in Festival, and it earned a resounding ovation, she said, reminding everyone in the room that the most insightful person may just be the least expected."
Other films shown that were noteworthy were,"The Mural," a film about a local non-profit, highlighted the incredible creativity that can be unleashed if people are given the chance.
Disability advocate and sponsor, Michele Spitz would agree. She was very candid with this reporter about her dedicated support of the event. She donated much of her time and resources to help Superfest 2014 to be a success. "It was wonderful," she said.
Superfest 2014  Festival Coordinators Catherine Kudlick Director of San Francisco State’s Paul Lon...
Superfest 2014, Festival Coordinators Catherine Kudlick Director of San Francisco State’s Paul Longmore Institute on Disability with Bryan Bashin, CEO of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Courtesy of Superfest 2014
The film, "Krutch" was the winner of the Disabled Filmmaker Award. Very much a more explicit and honest film-short. (It focused on that basic biological human need, the libido). "It raised eyebrows and unapologetically reminded us all that our most basic fabric is of the same thread," noted Sachs.
The poignant film 'Everything is Incredible' "filled viewers with wonder, not because a disabled man was doing something remarkable, but because his Honduran community was intimately affected by this polio survivor’s unwavering ability to dream big." "It highlighted what we already know," she added. The film contrasted the typical Hollywood representations that show disability as a burden, to highlight instead that disability can open up doors and enrich all of our lives."
"Superfest is a cherished community event, noted Sachs, with international appeal because it is the first, and to our knowledge, the only film festival administered by people with disabilities."
Beginning in 1970 in Los Angeles as a small film showcase. That first effort intended to encourage greater participation of disabled people in the telecommunications industry. More than 40 years later, the film fest has grown into an international media event.
Superfest honors and celebrates the unique contributions of the growing disability arts and culture movement by exhibiting the most innovative as well as provocative works. Films presented are from both seasoned filmmakers and emerging media arts professionals.
Sachs noted that Superfest takes great pride in its outstanding record of providing world premiere exhibition and first-time award recognition to many fine films and videos that have gone on to receive major distribution, airing on national television, and international festival success.
In 1982, Superfest became a primary project of Culture! Disability! Talent! In 1995, CDT and Superfest moved from Los Angeles to Berkeley, the birthplace of the disability rights and independent living movements. From there it branched out to included the entire San Francisco Bay Area, a region known for its rich cultural diversity and support for experimental arts.
"Although Superfest continues to encourage greater inclusion of diverse representations of disability in mainstream media," noted Sachs. "With the move to Berkeley came greater encouragement for independent films, experimental work and films and media from an 'inside- disability-perspective." "With a rowdy disability community spirit, said Sachs and its very own showcase of eclectic disability themed films from around the world, Superfest has taken its place among the other diverse film festivals held in the Bay Area."
Explaining a bit more of the history behind Superfest, Sachs noted. "Annual film festivals were held in Berkeley 1998-2011, under the direction of Pamela Walker, succeeded by Liane Yasumoto in 2002. In 2012, the (CDT) Culture! Disability! Talent! began to search for new leaders with the vision, to take Superfest to the next level. Catherine Kudlick, was found. She is director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University." Along with Kudlick was selected Bryan Bashin, CEO of the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind. Working together, they invited more people and groups to join in.
In 2013, the Longmore Institute and SF Lighthouse for the Blind hosted their first Superfest event. This became a powerful look backward to explore the worst of the worst in the film representation of disability with a new trophy award, referred to as 'the Dissies.' For this year, the festival returned to its previous juried format.
 I loved the film festival and had a wonderful time. Being the MC was an honor   said comedian Nina ...
"I loved the film festival and had a wonderful time. Being the MC was an honor," said comedian Nina G. "Often times the media misrepresents disability, that is why I think Superfest is so important." Nina's favorite films this year was "Vectors of Autism" and "The Mural."
Courtesy of Superfest 2014
"We pride ourselves on the fact that 100-percent of our judges are people with disabilities," noted Sachs. She pointed out "their challenges of disability include physical, cognitive, learning, sensory, or emotional. While Hollywood tries to incorporate people with disabilities (or sometimes actors acting disabled) in their big-budget blockbusters, they are unfortunately prone to get it wrong. Which can then lead to exploiting a small feature of a whole person." "Hence, this was the reason for Superfest," she said.
"Thank you to our Gold and Silver Sponsors, said Sachs. Especially, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Michele Spitz of Woman of her Word, The Lucas Family Foundation, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the Golden Gate Regional Foundation." And, Sachs also wanted to say, "thank you to the rest of our sponsors, community sponsors, filmmakers, judges and audience members. We couldn’t do it without you!"
For more information about Superfest visit the Superfest web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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