Movie goers fresh off of Hot Docs may want to consider moseying over to Toronto’s first annual ReelAbilities Film Festival. The 6ix will be joining the ranks of other worldwide communities like New York, Portland, and Chicago to showcase filmmakers who are adamant in portraying people with different abilities and their inspiring stories.
I mention the Hot Docs crowd because ReelAbilities will be screening two unforgettable documentaries. Matt Fuller’s Autism in Love (Friday, May 13, 6:30pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema) is one in particular that knocked my socks off. Fuller’s film focuses on different levels of love through three parties: the single life, an adoring couple, and a happily married duo.
All the subjects have some form of autism and are quite vocal with how they manage their lifestyles. Lenny, the single one, is upset over his lack of independence, and his difficulty to conform to a “traditional” relationship. The thought of his future wife making more money than him give Lenny discomfort because he believes he should be taking care of her – not the other way around.
Dave and Lindsey, the couple, find their relationship easy to maintain except discussions of marriage have different perceptions to Lindsey’s artistic mind and Dave’s calculated planning. Meanwhile, Stephen and Gita, who have been married for 20 years, find a struggle when Gita is diagnosed with cancer. Stephen loves Gita through thick and thin, but fuzzy comprehension hinders the heartbreaking circumstances.
On the surface, Autism in Love is about how people on the autistic spectrum define affection. Underneath that, however, is a film about people who learn how important it is to love themselves. I guarantee there won’t be a dry eye in the theatre.
Judy Lieff’s Deaf Jam (Monday, May 16, 7:00pm, Al Green Theatre) is also a fairly emotional and electric doc. The audience watches years pass as deaf high schooler Aneta Brodski takes her initial interest in ASL poetry, crafts it, and redefines slam poetry’s performance art. At one point, Aneta collaborates with Tahani, a slam poet with a sense of hearing who has admired Aneta’s work from afar. The creativity mixed with Aneta’s Israeli background and Tahani’s Palestinian culture cooks astounding results.
Those wanting to venture outside of documentaries may find themselves drawn in by the romantic premise of The Way He Looks (Sunday, May 15, 8:00pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox), a film about falling for unexpected people. I was underwhelmed by Daniel Ribiro’s drama though. The Way He Looks is okay and its lifted by strong performances (especially Ghilherme Lobo as pressured blind student Leonardo), but Ribeiro directs his film as if he’s checking off a coming-of-age to-do list. The Way He Looks reminded me of the superior teen film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but Ezra Miller’s side-story in that film was more engaging than the melodramatic central plot of The Way He Looks.
Nonetheless, the ReelAbilities Film Festival sets a high bar for its Toronto debut. Let’s hope this fest is here to stay.
The ReelAbilities Film Festival screens from Thursday, May 12 to Thursday, May 19. Regular tickets to screenings cost $12 each, and $8 for students, seniors, and movie goers on a fixed income.
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