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Film Festival Sheds Light On Disabilities From Multiple Perspectives

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A film festival that will take place in the city later this week highlights the issues faced by people with disabilities. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

Please laugh. It's OK.

That's why actress Maria Theresa Archbold wrote and starred in a short film about a slice of her real life as an amputee while auditioning for a role.

"Jazz Hand" is one of more than a dozen films that will be features during the New York Disabilities Film Festival.

"Life is funny," Archbold said. "At the end of the day, it's OK to tell a comical side of disability. It's OK to laugh."

The "Reel Abilities" Film Festival features movies about disabilities from many different perspectives.

Organizers said that the event, which is in its sixth year, fills a much-needed gap in entertainment.

"If you don’t have Dustin Hoffman in it, nobody's watching these films," said Isaac Zablocki, the director of the festival. "And these films are equally exciting, equally moving, can be great for audiences, but people are not picking them up. Often, distributors shy away from this topic of disabilities. They think audiences won’t come out for them. But we've proven them wrong."

The proof is in quality of the films and the enormous turnout. Thousands upon thousands of people crowd theaters during the annual event, which is featured in cities all across the country.

The organizers said they are very selective about the films they choose.

"It's not a patronizing way. It's not overcoming obstacles or climbing mountains," said Ravit Turjeman, a co-director of the festival. "It's just regular people, great stories anyone can relate to."

"It's really opening doors to stories that aren't in the mainstream and stories that are really mainstream," Archbold said. "So many people know someone with a disability."

The festival will take place throughout all five boroughs from March 7 until March 12.

To learn more, visit reelabilities.org.

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