It’s been said that movies reflect life in a way that’s truer than any other art form.
If so, people with disabilities must be riding a crest of popularity.
Did you notice that both “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” in leading role awards at the recent Oscars were presented to movie stars portraying people with disabilities?
Eddie Redmayne was fabulous as the amazing Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” Redmayne described himself as “the custodian” of the award for Hawking, his family, and all people around the world battling the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Julianne Moore was magnificent in “Still Alice,” a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease who struggles to stay connected with who she was as her cognitive abilities evaporate. The movie is based on the best-selling novel by Lisa Genova.
Improving the entertainment experience for people with disabilities was also the focus of a campaign launched via commercial during the 2015 Oscars.
The first-ever national advertisement by cable-giant Comcast promoted the company’s new talking guide that reads titles and selections aloud to help people with visual impairments surf through TV listings, program digital video recordings and browse video-on-demand options.
The 60-second ad directed viewers to a short documentary online about a sooooo sweet seven-year-old girl, Emily, who has been blind since birth, but loves watching the movie “The Wizard of Oz” nonetheless. See emilysoz.com.
In the documentary, “Emily’s Oz,” the girl describes how she imagines characters in the story look, and a cast and crew working to create Emily’s vision for viewers with sight.
If you haven’t seen “Emily’s Oz,” please watch. You’ll find yourself celebrating the diversity in a shared human experience.
A minute’s worth of TV advertising during the Academy Awards usually costs about $4 million, but Comcast officials said it hoped to inspire a national conversation about improving access to entertainment for people with disabilities.
In addition to helping the blind, the talking guide could be easier for senior citizens and people with reading disabilities to use, they said.
Features that help people with disabilities tend to be applicable, and acceptable, to able-bodied users, too. That’s the beauty of universal design.
Comcast will also be rolling out a voice-controlled remote later this year.
Amazon.com’s cloud-based Fire TV streaming box also has a voice search option. DirecTV has a smartphone app that allows TV viewers to navigate its program guide by speaking.
Movies can be a powerful way to open eyes and change attitudes in popular culture. Evidence is the ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festivals, which are hosted by disability organizations in 15 cities nationwide, including Chicago, Cincinnati and Columbus. See http://www.reelabilities.org.
These festivals feature award-winning movies by and about people with disabilities. Don’t attend expecting to see Hollywood Blockbuster movies you can catch at a your local multiplex. The emphasis is on excellent independent films.
Let’s compile a list of good movies that fairly portray living with a chronic or age-related disability. (“Forrest Gump,” a terrific allegory, doesn’t really live up to the second requirement.)
We can add these movies to our watch lists on Amazon Prime and Netflix, or borrow them from the library.
Here are some favorites to get us started:
- Children of a Lesser God (hearing)
- Scent of a Woman (sight)
- Soul Surfer (amputation)
- I Am Sam (cognitive disability)
- A Beautiful Mind (schizophrenia)
- My Left Foot (cerebral palsy)
- Rory O’Shea Was Here (cerebral palsy)
- Iris (Alzheimer’s Disease)
- Rain Man (autism spectrum)
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (autism spectrum)
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (aging)
- Robot and Frank (aging)
Add your favorites in the comments section. And, if you think “Forrest Gump” deserves to be on the list, say that, too.