The 2023 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Entry Rick’s Cafe follows a third date at a cafe that gets really intense.
Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme was romance.
RespectAbility Entertainment Lab Alumni Diana Elizabeth Jordan has been part of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge for several years. She met Rick’s Cafe‘s director Danny Gomez and executive producer Carl Hansen through the Challenges she’s done with them in the past.
Rick’s Cafe opens with stylish and cinematic neon lights depicting many unconscious bodies littered throughout a retro looking cafe. The hostess Tequila Sunrise maniacally says “Welcome to Rick’s Cafe!”
In crafting the character of Tequila Sunrise, Jordan only got the script the night before so she didn’t have a lot of time to create the backstory, but had a lot of fun in the limited time she had. Said Jordan, “I did decide she was a former spy who liked to play matchmaker to bring other spies together through some “interesting methods”. She creates her “tests” to see how committed couples are to really go the distance. As far as the laugh goes, that was a suggestion from our brilliant director Danny Gomez. I love as an actor just taking the note and going with it.”
After hearing Jordan’s maniacal laugh, we see a title card that takes us to 10 minutes prior.
A wheelchair user named Moscow Mule asks for a tequila sunrise and says that he likes his drinks stirred, not shaken. He greets a deaf woman who uses ASL sign language named Gin and reveals an ominous clue about a flamenco dancer in a red dress. Soon after, a tall man attempts to use the jukebox only to get electrocuted to death.
Gin walks over to a dancing couple and admires their technique. She walks back to Moscow Mule, who takes a shot of a red substance. It’s implied that everyone else who took a shot drank something much more harsh than tequila as a thud echoes over a black screen.
Later, Gin and Moscow Mule hold hands and look into each other’s eyes admiringly. Tequila Sunrise congratulates them and puts a handkerchief over Gin’s eyes before bookending the film with the line that started the film, “Welcome to Rick’s Cafe!”
Being that images of disability and deaf culture in romantic situations are rarely seen in mainstream media, Jordan stressed the importance of seeking and enacting change. Said Jordan, “I hope that these films can continue to be a game-changer, not only for creating more opportunities for disabled and deaf talent in front of and behind the camera, but also normalizing and changing the way the world sees disability.”