Los Angeles, Feb 18 – The short film, Best Friend, currently playing at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival, is a heartwarming story about a girl named Deidre and her family moving to a new city. Deidre is nervous that she will not make any friends, so her family takes her to a dog shelter to adopt a furry friend. While there, she not only finds a dog but another unexpected friend as well.
The short did a fantastic job of including disability representation featuring multiple characters – and actors – with disabilities. Their disabilities are never addressed and aren’t a plot point either. The actors just happen to have a disability, but other than that, the story and plot carry on as any other short. This is an ideal situation when it comes to disability representation. It opens up the possibility that any character could have a disability, just like in real life. The main character, Deidre, was portrayed by first-time actress Gitane Niel who has Down syndrome.
One of the other film’s characters with a disability was played beautifully by Diana Elizabeth Jordan, an alumna of the 2020 RespectAbility Summer Lab program for entertainment professionals with disabilities. She is also a producer of Best Friend.
Best Friend was made for the 2017 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, in which participants had one weekend (in this case 55 hours) to write, shoot, edit and submit a film. This was Jordan’s third time working with director Cory Reeder in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
Having films like Best Friend at Slamdance and other festivals is an essential step in highlighting good disability representation on-screen. It provides exposure and gives a reference for positive change. Hopefully, more festivals will start showing shorts and features that portray good disability representation to become more commonplace in the media as a whole. People with disabilities need to see themselves on screen to eliminate harmful stereotypes associated with having a disability.