Disability Film, funding & the future

Participants at the no-budget film-making workshop at the McGrath Centre.

Participants at the no-budget film-making workshop at the McGrath Centre.

Artistic Director Ju Gosling aka ju90 writes: Our DIY Disability Film Festival continues this weekend with a wonderful selection of films by disabled film-makers and/or with strong disability themes. Our UEL Docklands venue offers a comfortable and relaxing space to enjoy the best of Disability Film – and as with all of our activities, it is free.

Whether made by disabled or non-disabled people, film allows disabled people to communicate our interests, issues and concerns, as well as the reality of our lived experiences, in what is perhaps the most effective medium of all. The films we are showing include documentaries, animations, dramas, artist’s films and videos, dance films, films from East London, and many that defy description or categorization.

(If you are unable to attend in person, please look at the schedule online – you will find links within it to the individual programmes – to find out more about Disability Film. In many cases there are also links to online versions of the films, or to distributors who can sell you a copy on DVD.)

Most of the films we are screening have been made since the London International Disability Film Festival – held over the same December weekend at the BFI – closed its doors in 2008. Although we will continue to reshow some of the fantastic films created before 2008, this underlines the fact that disabled film-makers and Disability Film are thriving at every level, and deserve a great deal more exposure than they currently receive.

While camera-phones and YouTube have made it possible for everyone to begin film-making, both disabled and non-disabled film-makers around the world are also gaining access to public and private funding to create high-quality, professional movies of all lengths. Meanwhile distributors such as November Films and Dogwoof Films are bringing in and promoting feature-length films with disability themes and characters from overseas.

Our own two-day no-budget film-making workshop, held earlier this week, illustrates the level of interest that disabled people have in film-making. We had over 20 people attend, with another 20 or more unable to join us only because the necessary support was not available to them. As a result we will be developing our Photographers and Filmmakers Club in the New Year to hold a one-day workshop each month at the McGrath Centre in Stratford.

Our festival is DIY this year because we are doing it ourselves without any external funding whatsoever. It is made possible by the voluntary efforts of many people, and the in-kind support of the filmmakers themselves, the University of East London, November Films, Dogwoof Films, 104 Films, Artemis Theatre Company, Kynnyskino, ADF Ireland and DaDaFest. We were sorry that Channel 4 were unable to afford to support us this year; sponsorship would have paid for BSL interpretation and audio-description to widen access.

We will be working over 2014 to obtain sponsorship and other funding to cover access and other costs of running the film festival. We would also like to be able to meet film-makers’ expenses to come and introduce their films and have panel discussions, and to be able to commission one or more films especially for the festival. Either way, though, we will be back next year!