Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

by -

Learn about the upcoming film festival where diversity is celebrated with celebrity guests, networking opportunities, and inspiring films by and about people with disabilities.

Like any other Hollywood film festival, the four-day 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival will feature star-studded parties, workshops, special events, and networking opportunities. But what sets the ReelAbilities Film Festival apart is its focus: More than 40 films that showcase the stories, lives and art of people who experience disabilities. The festival, for which thousands are expected to attend, will benefit more than 26 local nonprofit organizations devoted to strengthening the lives of individuals with disabilities.

“Our goal is that people will have fun, meet new and enjoy the company of old friends, be moved in some way, and leave having been uplifted with a new perception of difference, appreciation and welcoming of each other,” says Lisa Desatnik, director of public relations. The event is open to the public, for people of all ages, and will be accessible.

VIP guests will include R.J. Mitte of Breaking Bad; Jamie Brewer of American Horror Story; Lauren Potter of Glee; Ali Stroker of Glee and Broadway’s Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening; BMX rider-turned-actor Kurt Yaeger; disability rights attorney and Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein; retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and NASA astronaut Rich Clifford; and others.

The event, hosted at the Duke Energy Convention Center, will kick off at 10 a.m. on March 9 with a question-and-answer session featuring Mitte, followed by the Premiere Luncheon, with Mitte as the keynote speaker. At 6:30 that evening, the opening film, The Astronaut’s Secret, starring VIP guest Rich Clifford, will show. Friday will feature the Interfaith Breakfast at 8 a.m. and the Veterans Reception at 5:30 p.m. Saturday will feature a Veterans Brunch at 9:30 a.m. and cocktails with the stars and screenwriters of Spring Break Zombie Massacre, a festival entry written by VIP guests Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt, as well as the Family Fun Shorts on Saturday morning, hosted by Cincy Chic’s own Amy Scalia. The event concludes on Sunday at 7 p.m. with film showings and a closing party. Film screenings will also go on throughout the festival.

Along with The Astronaut’s Secret and Spring Break Zombie Massacre, films showing will include 2e: Twice Exceptional, a documentary about students labeled as gifted with learning disabilities or differences; Do You Dream In Color?, which follows three blind students navigating high school life; Macropolis, a family-friendly short film about two toys discarded from a factory because of their differences and their journey back; and others. Trailers for the films will be available on the ReelAbilities website,, when ticket sales begin.

Desatnik describes the films as “diverse, impactful, and entertaining.” She goes on to explain, “Our films, and the discussions after them, will not only entertain audiences, but will also transform the way our guests perceive differences, appreciate and welcome one another. Films will range from silly to powerfully told documentaries to beautifully portrayed stories to fun animations.”

The ReelAbilities Film Festival started out in 2007 in Manhattan. Cincinnati was the first city to follow in New York’s footsteps in 2012, and since then ReelAbilities has spread to over a dozen cities in North America.

In 2014, ReelAbilities moved its headquarters to Cincinnati, where it is managed by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit that has helped nearly 500 Hamilton County adults with developmental disabilities through housing and employment options, life skills training, and advocacy leadership.

To learn more, or to sign up as a festival volunteer, visit