While some filmmakers have historically used disability for comic relief or to evoke pity, a new wave of emerging talents is shifting the narrative. They focus on portraying resilience, emotional struggles, and the aspirations that define the human spirit within people with disabilites.
Statistics reveal a stark reality — that a mere 2.3 percent of the top-grossing films feature speaking characters with disabilities, leaving the disabled community largely erased from the cinematic narrative. With a population of 121 crore, 2.68 crore individuals are classified as 'disabled' in India, making it imperative that their stories find a place on the screen.
ADAPT, formerly known as the Spastics Society of India, has been at the forefront of advocating for people with neuro-muscular and developmental disabilities since its inception in 1972. From humble beginnings as a special school for three children, it has evolved into a non-profit organization serving over 300,000 children and 10,000 families.
The ADAPT Short Film Festival 2023, ASFF has emerged as a beacon of transformation; challenging young talents in film and design to embrace the art of inclusive narratives in storytelling. Conceived by Nilesh Maniyar, whose writings from Margarita With a Straw to Sky is Pink , from Black Sunshine Baby to Raat Rani revolves around much required political subtext, questioning the issues of inequality & gender bias.
Nilesh strongly believes that storytellers are gatekeepers and ASFF is a big leap towards starting this conversation at the beginning of the journey of students aspiring to be future story tellers.
Short films, with their concise yet powerful narratives, offer a unique platform for storytellers. Here, they have the opportunity to distill human experiences to their purest form, creating a deep and intimate connection with their audience.
The festival's main aim is crystal clear: to inspire emerging filmmakers to craft original stories centred around the themes of disability' and inclusion. They urge the filmmakers to make these integral components of their stories rather than mere vehicles for awareness.
The festival is a wake-up call, affirming that disability and inclusion cannot be optional motifs and themes in progressive cinema. Instead, they must be unquestionably woven into the fabric of every film, becoming a natural part of our cinematic discourse.
The festival boasts a twofold mission — to nurture upcoming talent and to foster a culture of promoting short films in India while incorporating the values of inclusion and normalising disabilities. Divided into two categories — Piccolo Shorts (films under 2 minutes) advocating stories of disability and inclusion, and Cortado Shorts (films under 25 minutes) celebrating these themes — the festival provides a platform for budding filmmakers to showcase their work alongside industry professionals.
ASSF, a first of its kind, is more than just a celebration of cinema; it's a revolution; a pledge to rewrite the script of inclusivity in Indian filmmaking. In a space often dominated by a select few, this festival aims to elevate the voices and perspectives of those who have been marginalized for far too long. It's a promise to shape a future where disability is not a footnote, but an integral part of the narrative.
The final deadline for short film submission is the 30th of September. The festival will be hosted on World Cerebral Palsy Day, on the 6th of October.
If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown: