At the beginning of March 2023, the BFI hosted its second annual ‘Busting the Bias’ film festival – a wonderful celebration of Disabled talent, disability storytelling, as well as a call for better inclusive practices within the film industry. If you missed the festival or don’t live in London, don’t fear. The five short films below will be available on the BFI player until the 2nd April, giving you plenty of time to catch up.
Jemima Hughes’ animated film is a 3 minute long poetic short, which I interpreted to be about how a wheelchair user must sometimes use their imagination when they can’t create movement themselves. Visually it is simple, and yet it really conveyed this sentiment to me so well. The dull beginning of the film contrasts wonderfully with all the colour that fills the screen at the end.
2. My Eyes Are Up Here
Nathan Morris’ beautifully shot film shows something I don’t normally see on screen: a disabled person having a casual hook up. It twists between the funny and romantic moments between model Sonya (Jillian Mecardo) and Tom (Ben Cura), and the darker casual ableism Sonya faces on her way to get the morning after pill. I absolutely love seeing Disabled people in romantic comedy films, and Morris’ film really well acted, featuring scenes that power chair users will be all too familiar with, like having to argue with passengers on the bus for space and the fear of a homemade ramp.
3. Call Us CRIPtic
For documentary fans, Jessi Gutch has created a film about CRIPtic Arts – an organisation creating opportunities and changing the industry for Deaf and Disabled creatives. This short documentary shows the work that CRIPtic Arts does to progress the industry and the barriers that their Disabled artists face. It’s an impactful film that also discusses the power of the lens in filmmaking and the importance of having Disabled people working behind the scenes, as well as on screen and on stage.
4. Louder Is Not Always Clearer
Toby Cameron’s short is another visually stunning piece. It centres around Jonny, who is Deaf and describes his ability to lip read as a superpower. The film shows his difficulties to lip read in certain situations, like at a dinner party, in a nightclub or having sex in the dark. I really enjoyed how the varying levels of music and sound, plus a creative use of captions and audio description were employed to help tell the story.
You might recognise Ruth Madely, who plays Bella in David Proud’s film. She has been in the TV shows Years and Years, When Barbara Met Alan, and this year she’ll appear in Dr Who. Ruth plays Bella, a wheelchair-using disabled actor who is struggling in her own career but is tasked with teaching Josh (Laurie Davidson) how to act disabled for a part. This film highlights the wider problem in the film industry of actors who ‘crip up’ and pretend to be Disabled for roles, leaving talented Disabled actors who can bring lived experience to the role by the wayside. The part that makes this film so galling is the complete disregard that Josh shows for even trying to understand the character he wants to play.
This is just a small sample of the programme that this year’s festival offered, and highlights the diversity in genre, tone and subject matter from Disabled artists. Busting the Bias has once again delivered on a weekend where Disabled creativity can shine through – roll on the 2024 edition.
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