Forest Hills film festival focuses on living with disabilities

Disabilities have an effect on everyday life that most people might not even notice, Ravit Turjeman said.

An artistic expression of such effects will be on full display next month when the 6th Annual NY ReelAbilities Film Festival lands at the Central Queens Y March 9 and March 10 in Forest Hills. A total of three films focusing on what it is like to live with disabilities will be screened over the two-day festival and festival director Turjeman said she hoped they will continue to spark conversation.

“One of the best parts about these festivals are the conversations people have after the films,” she said. “The goal is to get people talking.”

The ReelAbilities Film Festival features films about the human experience, rather than just about disabilities, Turjeman said. The program has grown into the largest festival in the country dedicated exclusively to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with disabilities.

“We use film to educate the public about the lives of individuals with disabilities and through this create a more inclusive society, festival director Isaac Zablocki said in a statement. “The films we screen not only entertain, but enlighten and capture experiences that are often shied away from.”

The opening film has a story that Central Queens Y Spokeswoman Peggy Kurtz called “eerily reminiscent of the recent tragedy story of Avonte Oquendo, but with a happier ending.” The festival will screen “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” on March 9 at 11 a.m., which tells the story of an autistic boy during Hurricane Sandy who runs away from home – but is ultimately found.

That afternoon, the festival will screen “Gabrielle” at 2 p.m., which tells an uplifting story about love and the redemptive powers of music among young people with developmental disabilities and living in a group home.

The following day includes a screening of “Do You Believe in Love,” a film about a matchmaker whose tough love style of matchmaking brings together people with disabilities to find soul mates and partners through their lives.

Turjeman said films are selected in accordance with the festival’s main goal to promote awareness and enlightenment about people living and thriving with disabilities and build on a cultural shift that no longer keeps disability away from the main stream.

Aside from just the films, the festival also presents post-screening discussions, live music, dance performances, art exhibitions and other special events. The festival partners with over 70 community, film, arts, government, disability, and educational organizations making it the only film festival to bring stories of people with disabilities to such a wide-reaching audience.

The festival is scheduled for the Central Queens YM & YWHA at 67-09 108th St. in Forest Hills. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (718) 268-5011 ext. 151. All films are open to the public with an $8 donation requested. More information is also available at

By Phil Corso


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