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14th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival Announces Line up and Special Events

The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s (MMJCCM) ReelAbilities Film Festival (New York) announced the full lineup of films and select special events for its 14th annual festival, which returns as a hybrid event in person and virtual from April 7 through April 13, 2022. Tickets can be purchased at

ReelAbilities Film Festival is the largest festival in the U.S. dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with disabilities. Initiated in New York at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in 2007, the festival has grown to present international and award-winning films by and about people with disabilities in multiple fully accessible locations throughout the New York Metro Area. At the 2022 festival, post-screening discussions, presented by Pfizer, and other engaging programs will bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.

What to Expect

The 14th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival will feature in-person screenings and virtual access of a dozen feature films and over twenty-five shorts, plus panels and Q&As with filmmakers and artists. The festival’s Opening Night selection will be Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s acclaimed film THE SPECIALS, starring Vincent Cassel, Reda Kateb, Helene Vincent, and Brian Mialoundama. It will screen on April 7 at 7 pm at the IAC Screening Room, co-presented by Vimeo and followed by a Q&A with special guests from the film.

Reel Abilities 2022
credit: Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan & ReelAbilities Film Festival

The Closing Night film will be the New York premiere of Brian Malone and Regan Linton’s documentary IMPERFECT, which follows an award-winning theater group consisting of actors who live and perform with the uniqueness of disability as they set out to claim their place in the spotlight with a production of the beloved musical Chicago. Following these actors’ lives inside and outside the theater, curtains are drawn open to overlooked talent and the power of the human condition in its many forms. It will screen on April 13 at 7 pm at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

As a part of the 2022 festival, ReelAbilities is proud to launch an exciting initiative: The Film and Television Accessibility Summit on April 11 and 12. The hybrid summit will discuss accessibility as a creative asset at all phases, development through exhibition, and explore beyond the basics into progressive best practices. Industry leaders including disabled creatives will share knowledge and experience, providing participants with the tools to elevate accessibility and open pathways to deeper inclusion. Available both in-person and virtually provided by Eventive.

ReelAbilities is also proud to launch a groundbreaking streaming site with access to some of the best films from past festivals. Launching April 13, many of the festival’s past films will now be available nationwide, with unprecedented accessibility aids. Coming soon to:

“This year’s lineup of films is our largest and most diverse program to date,” says Isaac Zablocki, Director and Cofounder of ReelAbilities, and Senior Director of Film Programs at MMJCCM. “We always look for authentic stories, but this year, we put an extra focus on stories in first person, that are actually told by people with disabilities.”

The festival is presented with full accessibility including Captions and Audio descriptions for all films, and CART for all conversations as well as ASL.

Amazing Grace film
The ‘Amazing Grace’ film will show at ReelAbilities. credit: ReelAbilities

This year’s New York partner venues include the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s newly renovated Goldman Sonnenfeldt Auditorium, The IAC Building, The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, The Maysles Documentary Center, The Museum of the Moving Image, The Jacob Burns Film Center, and David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, among others. All films will be presented virtually as well.

This year, lead sponsors for ReelAbilities includes: Pfizer, sponsoring the accessible conversations; AMC Networks, sponsoring the short film selections and accessibility; as well as Eventive, sponsoring the virtual elements of the summit. Support from the community and major corporations allows ReelAbilities to raise the bar on accessibility and shine a spotlight on the underserved.


Dir. Lynn Montgomery
United States | 55 min | Documentary
Talented young musician Gracie Smith, proficient in three instruments, was on her way to the world famous Berklee College of Music. On her 17th birthday, she developed Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), a rare polio-like disease. Determined to persevere, Gracie set out to find new ways to create art, driven by her philosophy: “My only limitation will be my imagination.” Featuring Justin Hurwitz, Academy Award–winning composer of La La Land.
Disabilities Represented: Acute Flaccid Myelitis/Quadriplegia, Guillain-Barre syndrome/Paraplegia

Dir. Margaret Byrne
United States | 93 min | Documentary
Filmmaker Margaret Byrne documents the lives of three defendants with mental illness going through a specialized probation program designed to focus on mental health. Byrne’s own mental health condition becomes tied in to the larger picture of family relationships, struggles, and triumphs.
Disabilities Represented: Mental illness

Dir. Jack Youngelson
United States | 95 min | Documentary
In this personal documentary, the intimate lives of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are shared inside hopeful therapy sessions. From men to women, from the Vietnam War to the present day, stories are unlocked that dispel myths about PTSD and place focus on veterans’ journeys to a place of healing. Featuring former presidential hopeful Jason Kander.
Disabilities represented: PTSD

The ‘Here.Is.Better’ film will show at the ReelAbilities Film Festival. credit: ReelAbilities

Dir.  Brian Malone, Regan Linton
United States | 78 min | Documentary
An award-winning theater group consisting of actors who live and perform with the uniqueness of disability sets out to claim their place in the spotlight with a production of the beloved musical Chicago. Following these actors’ lives inside and outside the theater, curtains are drawn open to overlooked talent and the power of the human condition in its many forms.
Disabilities represented: Paralysis, Cerebral Palsy, Blindness, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Polio

Dir. Jim Bernfield
United States | 72 min | Documentary
When faced with growing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, two professional actors set forth to put on an off-Broadway production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, a play Beckett wrote as a metaphor for living with a disease. Through the artistic process, these actors find humor in struggle and power in the soul.
Disabilities represented: Parkinson’s disease

Dir. Kelsey Peterson, Daniel Klein
United States | 81 min | Documentary
At age 27, dancer Kelsey Peterson dove into Lake Superior and emerged paralyzed. Now, she faces the opportunity to dance again, as she works to redefine who she is and rediscover hope in the body and spirit.
Disabilities represented: Spinal cord injury/disorder

Dir. Marc Schiller
UK | 90 min | Documentary
Marc Schiller, a communications expert with a long career promoting street art, music, and film, suffers a stroke that leaves him with aphasia and some cognitive deficits. With the help of family, Marc chronicles his career in the NYC art scene, his path toward recovery, and the love that surrounds him.
Disabilities represented: Stroke victim

Dir. Matsui Itaru
Japan | 54 min | Documentary
In search of a place between two disparate worlds, three teenage Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs), come of age in the vibrant, loud Deaf community. Grappling with issues of prejudice, leading double lives, and familial bonds, this documentary asks what it means to exist between different cultures and how you can define your sense of identity.
Disabilities represented: Children of Deaf Adults

Only I can Hear
The ‘Only I Can Hear’ film will show at the ReelAbilities Film Festival. credit: ReelAbilities

Dir. Linda Niccol
New Zealand | 98 min | Narrative
Poppy, a young woman with Down syndrome, is set on becoming a motor mechanic. Unfortunately, her overly protective brother keeps jamming the wheel of that ambition. When an opportunity arises for Poppy, she sets out to prove her independence and achieve her dream.
Disabilities represented: Down syndrome

SXSW 2022
Dir. Teemu Nikki
Finland | 81 min | Narrative
Jaako, a blind wheelchair user with multiple sclerosis, forges an active long-distance relationship with Sirpa over the phone, without ever meeting in person. When Sirpa reveals shocking news, Jaako decides to undergo a real-life odyssey to meet her. Jaako travels through five different locations, encountering strangers both helpful and harmful, on his way to the one he loves.
Disabilities represented: Multiple sclerosis, Blindness

Dir. Rodrigo Pla, Laura Santullo
Mexico | 111 min | Narrative
Elena is a single mother attempting to manage her son Tom’s behavioral issues. When Tom is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Elena becomes aware of the possible side effects of his medication. With Social Services threatening to remove him from her custody, Elena fights for the well-being of the only person she has.
Disabilities represented: ADHD

Dir. Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
France, Belgium | 114 min | Narrative
Close friends Bruno and Malik have combined their nonprofits to train youth in underprivileged areas to be caregivers for autistic children and teens. However, the program lacks official certification and is under the watchful eye of the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs. Despite this looming threat and internal conflicts, the power of unity, compassion, and acceptance within the program prove exceptional.
Disabilities represented: Autism

Dir. Michael Joseph McDonald
United States | 29 min | Documentary
Three Georgians with cerebral palsy fight to live life on their own terms. But as their families bond, state policy tries to tear them apart.
Disability represented: Cerebral palsy

Dir. Grace Fisher
United States | 8 min | Animation
A caterpillar who can’t become a butterfly discovers he can still add color to the world in his own special way. Featuring music and artwork by Amazing Grace star Grace Fisher, with critters created by children with disabilities in Santa Barbara.
Disability represented: Down syndrome, Autism

‘A Critter Fable’ to show at ReelAbilities. credit: ReelAbilities Film Festival

Dir. Nicholas Riini
New Zealand | 11 min | Narrative short
Aroha, an imaginative young girl with Down syndrome, sets out to share her creativity with her neighbors.
Type of disability: Down syndrome

Dir. Luca Arcidiacono
Italy | 20 min | Narrative short
Filippo did not expect to have to spend the day with Alice, a charming young girl with Down syndrome he meets on a train. On their journey, an unexpected bond forms between the two.
Disability represented: Down syndrome

Dir. Chrystee Pharris
United States | 11 min

On the day of their anniversary, a couple separated by lockdown finds their relationship tested. A story about the power of love in the toughest of times.
Disability represented: Deafness

Dir. Jose Navas
United States | 16 min | Narrative Short
Marcus, a reserved teenager with mutism, attends public school for the first time in his life. Pushing through trials and prejudices of the past and present, Marcus uncovers a special gift he’s been hiding from the world.
Disability represented: Mutism

Dir. Mulan Fu
United States | 6 min | Animation
A teenage girl undergoes transformative growth as she witnesses her mother’s fight against breast cancer.
Disability represented: Breast cancer

Dir. Jeff Ayars
United States | 10 min | Short
A young woman overtaken by anxiety battles through her inner thoughts when she sets out to accomplish what would seem to be a simple task: buying a cup of coffee.
Disability represented: Borderline personality disorder

Dir. Adam Douglas Deyoe
United States | 9 min | Animation
Davey, a cheerful and loving man with Down syndrome, finds his future thrown into uncertainty when his elderly mother passes away.
Disability represented: Down syndrome

Dir. Timon Birkhofer
United States | 5 min | Documentary
Five unique individuals take us on a journey where their achievements shine beyond preconceived ideas of what is possible.
Disabilities represented: Five different physical disabilities

Dir. Maria DiDomenico
United States | 5 min | Narrative Short
As fraternal twins Peter and Pat celebrate their 40th birthday, a huge twist is revealed.
Disability represented: Dwarfism

Dir. Michael Joseph McDonald, Joe Bluhm
Canada | 5 min | Animation
A boy with Down syndrome learns to navigate the world with a loving mother, an absent father, a classroom bully, and a lifelong crush.
Disability represented: Down syndrome

Dir. Lily Drummond
United States | 28 min | Narrative short
A viral online photographer wants to remain anonymous in order to hide parts of their identity. When a fan from the other side of the world makes a connection, they learn to accept themselves by sharing the universal language of art.
Disability represented: Deafness

Dir. Théo Jamin, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe, Jean-Géraud Blanc
France | 5 min | Animation
Louis, an 8-year-old autistic boy, introduces himself at his new school in this imaginative tale about difference and acceptance.
Disability represented: Autism

Dir. Cameron Carr, Marie Trudolubova
United Kingdom | 6 min | Animation
A behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Wawel Dragon. When the pandemic forces his university’s studios to shut down, animation student Cameron Carr sets to work creating his very own studio in his bedroom.
Disability represented: Autism

Dir. Antoine Chapon
United States | 19 min | Documentary
Taking the technology used for Virtual Reality military simulation, a veteran transforms the originally violent landscape into a space of nature and healing.
Disability represented: PTSD

My Own Landscapes
‘My Own Landscapes’ to show at ReelAbilities. credit” ReelAbilities

Dir. Pat Taggart
United States | 27 min | Documentary
At a young age, Nick Fergus found joy in creating rock star alter ego “Nick Lightning.” Now diagnosed in a world of rising Autism awareness, Nick Lightning challenges ideas of what it means to live a happy, fulfilling life.
Disability represented: Autism, ADHD

Dir. Steven Fraser
United Kingdom | 10 min | Animation, Documentary
Unraveling sketchbooks, photographs, and diaries with unique animation, Prosopagnosia explores what it means to live with face blindness and Autism, and investigates concepts of intimacy, communication, and memory.
Disability represented: Face blindness, Autism

Dir. Eyal Resh
United States | 9 min | Narrative Short
Tensions rise between a young deaf couple discovering they are about to become parents. Featuring 2018 Tony nominee and Eternals star Lauren Ridloff.
Disability represented: Deafness

Dir. Itandehui Jansen
United Kingdom | 12 min | Narrative Short
Clara, a blind florist, has been chatting with Simon through a dating app. They arrange to meet in person. However, during their first date, an unexpected misunderstanding arises.
Disability represented: Blindness, hearing impairment

Dir. Charlie Dennis
United Kingdom | 10 min | Narrative Short
When threatened by a deadly gas, humanity is forced to live underground. While everyone else adjusts to their new way of life, deaf rapper Signkid struggles with loss and isolation in an increasingly inaccessible world.
Disability represented: Deafness

Dir. Eloise Sherrid, Lauryn Welch
United States | 10 min | Animation, Documentary
A magical-realist exploration of the life of a man with chronic illness through footage and paintings.
Disability represented: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Dir. Storm Smith, Natasha Ofili
United States | 18 min | Narrative Short
An isolated deaf woman fights to maintain control when past demons threaten to destroy the world of order she has built.
Disability represented: Deafness

Dir. Juan Manuel Montilla “Langui”
Spain | 15 min | Narrative Short
Every day, Santiago walks with his son Diego to and from school. But today is different. Diego is no longer a boy, walking is difficult for Santiago, and father and son will need to have a truthful discussion that both hurts and heals.
Disability represented: Physical disability

Dir. Cameron Carr
United Kingdom | 6 min | Animation
An animated retelling of the classic Polish folktale by Cameron Carr (Strange), Wawel Dragon features a dragon, knights, and the unexpected heroism of a simple shoemaker.
Disability represented: Autism

Dir. Smari Gunn
Iceland | 6 min | Narrative Short
When a homeowner and master burglar become aware they are in separate parts of the house, a frantic game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
Disability represented: Muscular Dystrophy/Wheelchair user

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