Take in the stories & successes of people with disabilities at ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival

"CODA" | Courtesy of ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival

Celebrate the achievements of people living with disabilities at the free ReelAbilities Houston Film and Arts Festival from Tuesday, February 11 through Thursday, February 20, 2020.

For over ten days, the ReelAbilities Houston Film and Arts Festival showcases and leverages the unique contributions of people who live with disabilities in an effort to foster inclusion, erase stigmas, change perceptions, and create pathways to employment across Houston.

This year’s festival, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, features many free events, including art exhibitions and film screenings, as well as extraordinary speakers and a networking luncheon.

Click here for more information and to view a schedule of events.

Marlee Matlin | Courtesy of Marlee Matlin

Pre-Festival Events

In addition to the ten-day festival, a series of pre-festival events take place that serve as a preview of what’s to come at the eight annual ReelAbilities Houston Film and Arts Festival.

  • Illuminating Dyslexia: A Touch to See Exhibit by Dr. Stephanie A. Skolik | Ongoing from Wednesday, January 22 through Wednesday, February 26, 2020 | FREE – Touching on her experience with severe undiagnosed dyslexia, Dr. Skolik’s exhibition of oil paintings and clay reliefs combine visual art with touch panels that offer accessibility for the visually impaired community and expands the experience of sighted individuals. A free opening reception will be held on Wednesday, January 22 at Joe Frank Theater of the Arts at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC from 6:30pm to 8pm.
  • Nobody’s Perfect: Achieving Inclusion, Diversity & Access presented by Marlee Matlin at Congregation Emanu El | Thursday, January 30 – After losing her hearing at the age of one, Marlee Matlin overcame her challenges to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in her debut film, Children of a Lesser God, and has since dedicated herself to raising awareness for a number of humanitarian causes. Tickets are $10, with a VIP meet-and-greet option available for $100. 7:30pm to 9pm.
  • ReelWorkplace 2020 at Partnership Tower | Wednesday, February 5 – Celebrating three decades of progress in access and inclusion, this lunchtime networking and panel discussion event provides an opportunity to connect with local and national business leaders, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Tickets are $45 for non-members. 11am to 1:30pm.

Click here for more information and to view a schedule of events.

The Crash Reel | Courtesy of ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival

ReelAbilities Film Festival

Sixteen films (full length and shorts), curated for the Houston festival, will be shown over the course of four days at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, covering themes that are equal parts compelling, eye-opening, entertaining, and even mystifying.

All films are free admission, captioned and audio described to be fully accessible. Several of the films will also include a post-screening interactive panel discussion. Film highlights include:

  • The Peanut Butter Falcon | Sunday, February 16 | 7pm – Starring Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, this film follows the story of Zak, a young man with Down syndrome, as he runs away from a residential nursing home to follow his dream of attending the professional wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck.
  • Normal Isn’t Real | Monday, February 17 | 1pm – Accompanying the short documentary Unteachable, this series of four mini documentary-style videos features successful young adults who navigate their struggles with learning disabilities and ADHD.
  • Bedlam | Tuesday, February 18 | 4pm – Haunted by the death of his mentally ill sister, psychiatrist Kenneth Rosenberg shot this documentary over the course of five years, following the stories of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other chronic psychiatric conditions that represent a national health crisis.
  • The Crash Reel | Wednesday, February 19 | 7pm – This documentary follows snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and his family that stand by his side during rehab but object to his desire to return to his favorite sport.

Click here for more information and to view a schedule of events.

J.R. Martinez, Rebecca Alexander, Darrius Simmons | Courtesy of ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival

Speakers, Art & Music

Throughout the ten-day ReelAbilities Houston Film and Arts Festival, attendees can expect to hear from extraordinary speakers, see thought-provoking films, explore works of art, and jam out to a festival-closing concert.

  • ReelPeople: UP Abilities at A.D. Players at the George Theater | Tuesday, February 11 – One of the festival’s signature events, three extraordinary speakers open a window into the world of disabilities with both intimacy and urgency. This year features J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran, burn survivor, actor, best-selling author, and winner of Dancing with the Stars; Darrius Simmons, a master of the piano despite being born with three fingers on his right hand, one finger on his left, and a rare congenital lower-limb anomaly that led to amputations; and Rebecca Alexander, an author, psychotherapist, group fitness instructor, and extreme athlete who has been simultaneously losing her vision and hearing since she was a teenager. Tickets are $25. Doors at 6:15pm, event from 7pm to 9pm.
  • ReelArt, featuring Mara Clawson at Celebration Company | Thursday, February 13 | FREE – More than twenty adult artists living with disabilities feature in this annual art show at The Center for Art and Photography at Celebration Company. In addition, this year features Mara Clawson, who combines pastels and iPad technology to convey her perception of the world. Reception from 6pm to 8pm.
  • ReelMusic at White Oak Music Hall | Thursday, February 20 | FREE – The festival draws to a close with a free night of jazz, rock, and more thanks to a collaboration between professional house musicians and artists living with disabilities, providing a chance for many musicians to showcase their talents in a premier venue. Doors at 6:30pm, show from 7pm to 9pm.

Click here for more information and to view a schedule of events.

ReelMusic at White Oak Music Hall | Courtesy of ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival

ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival

“Illuminating Dyslexia: A Touch to See Exhibit” by Dr. Stephanie Skolik | Courtesy of ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival

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