Skip Navigation
Image of people smiling and posing for a photo

Hollywood Inclusion

Creed III Shows Authentic Black Deaf Representation on Screen

a still from CREED III with Mila Davis-Kent cheering for Michael B. Jordan after a fight as he kisses Tessa Thompson.Los Angeles, March 9 – On the evening of February 27, Creed lll had its world premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. Without getting into too many details on the movie (because nobody likes spoilers!), if you haven’t seen the movie, what are you waiting for?

Creed III is one of the best films that I have seen in a while in the theater, and I am not the only one to feel this way – Creed III made box office history last weekend as the highest grossing sports film opening weekend in history. The fight scenes were incredible and, combined with its special effects (there is an especially powerful moment during the final climactic fight that is reminiscent of scenes from Anime films), made for a mind-blowing moviegoing experience. The film was very well written by co-writers Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, and produced by Ryan Coogler (director of Black Panther & Wakanda Forever). Moreover, Creed III happens to be Michael B Jordan’s directing debut. All the credit goes to him, his team, and the amazing cast that include Jonathan Majors, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, and Phylicia Rashad. Most importantly, he elevated Black Deaf representation to another level with the amazingly talented Mila Davis-Kent, who plays Amara Creed, the daughter of Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan).

What hit me hard watching Creed III was the opening scene with Amara. When she first appears early in the film, the first thing you see is beautiful Black Deaf representation on a gigantic screen. How often do you get to see that on the big screen in the theater? It is such a huge deal in the Deaf community, especially within the Black Deaf community, to finally have someone on the screen that they can relate to and have a role model that youth can look up to. It was amazing how Michael B Jordan depicted ASL (American Sign Language) authentically and seamlessly on the screen demonstrating, in various ways, unique cultural nuances of the Black Deaf community in South Los Angeles. [continue reading…]

Aleeya: A Love Story within a Larger Conversation about Trans Women in India

A scene from Aleeya with Aleeya running down a street with a man running after herSalt Lake City, Feb 23 – Aleeya, written and directed by RespectAbility Lab Alum Nina Mahesh (she/her), follows a trans woman in small-town India as she tries to buy a sewing machine for her boyfriend. This short film is both a simple love story and an intricate depiction of how trans women are treated in India. Over and over again, Aleeya, played impeccably by Nithu Rs, is either objectified or completely ignored by the people around her. Even the man she is trying to buy the sewing machine from won’t look up from his newspaper to engage.

In a conversation with Mahesh around the film, she remembered back to her yearly trips to India as a child where she would be ushered away from trans women coming up looking for change. Mahesh didn’t understand why these women were treated so poorly both in this one area as well as globally. As she got older and learned more about the community of these women, she wanted to see more positive representation. More specifically, as a narrative filmmaker, Mahesh said, “I didn’t see a lot of other things than documentaries [about these women]” and decided to make a narrative piece about them. [continue reading…]

“Supreme Models” Review: A Celebration of Trailblazing Black Models

Supreme Models is an amazing series that pays tribute to the trailblazing Black models who changed the fashion industry forever. Through heartfelt interviews that reintroduce iconic models like Donyale Luna and Pat Cleveland, viewers get a glimpse into what it took for them to break through the oppressive culture of racism and colorism in the 1960s.

Based on the book by Marsellas Reynolds, Supreme Models is a YouTube Originals docuseries from Vogue and The Machine that spills the tea on the fashion industry, from the Battle of Versailles to the unspoken “Blackout” that attempted to erase black models from the runway. Through a unique combination of archival footage and contemporary interviews, Supreme Models takes viewers on a journey through history as we explore how African American women revolutionized these industries.

RespectAbility Lab Alumna Nasreen Alkhateeb was the Director of Photography for the series, and she shared what it was like on set in real-time with these iconic women in history. “It felt so empowering to learn about my black history in a way that I had not before, and for it to be told by the people who actually experienced it.” Hearing the models talk firsthand about the embedded racism in the industry, Alkhateeb says the series sets up the foundation on which history was built and sheds light on how white supremacy worked in the fashion and entertainment industry. “You can’t build a future without knowing your history.” [continue reading…]

Fun and Suspenseful “Quick Trip” Shows Filmmaker Erika Ellis’s Potential

Quick Trip poster featuring a knife and a yellow mask on the back seat in a carErika Ellis is the multifaceted creative behind the short film Quick Trip. It is clear that Ellis has fun with her craft as she uses a unique sense of humor in her work. Ellis’s characters feel colorful and grounded in reality. These are people you would run into in day-to-day life, which is part of the appeal of her work.

In Quick Trip, Ellis takes on different roles as a writer and director of a three-minute thriller that ends in a sharp plot twist. A woman finds herself in danger after returning home from a quick trip to the pharmacy. We follow the main character’s drive to her home, and the slow pace is great at building suspense and curiosity. It’s also interesting to see such a scary threat in a mundane location, like a parking lot. It reminds us that this situation can happen to anyone.

Quick Trip was the product of a veteran-produced films contest at Amazon Prime. An independent producer, Ellis is passionate about advocating for artistic opportunities for other veterans. This initiative not only gives veterans a chance to make work but also gives us all the opportunity to see a new perspective within the filmmaking industry.

Ellis boasts a life full of different experiences. A veteran, after a long military career in aviation, Ellis worked in finance and in NYC’s bustling fashion scene. She is currently working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and writes features as well as TV pilots. After graduating from RespectAbility’s Entertainment Lab, Ellis has shown a commitment to authentic representation in her work and one can catch a glimpse of her commitment to original stories within this film.

Watch Quick Trip at Amazon Prime.

Magic Pavement: “The Crossroad” Short Film Review

Poster for The Crossroad, a film by Nikki Bailey, with a black woman holding her hands together like she's praying.Hard pavement blocks and dark satin silhouettes of city streets: Writer-Director Nikki Bailey’s Short, The Crossroad, starts somewhere in reality and ends exactly when any remnants of it cease to exist. For Bailey’s magical realism short, the story surrounds a mother who makes a bargain with a Satanic figure, “The Tall Man,” to ensure the survival of her unborn child. Bailey’s protagonist must promise her own soul to “The Tall Man” or face the eminent death of her baby.

The film feels like you’re being spooned by death. Bailey seems to ask the audience to cozy up to the inevitable and sit with her characters’ despair throughout much of the story. The pinnacle of that despair is when Bailey’s protagonist dies – after her daughter, the one saved by the original bargain, denies a second deal with “The Tall Man.” The cost of the deal, for the daughter, seemed too great of a burden. After all, the soul of her mother was ascertained from that kind of deal, why would the daughter engage with it again?

Though there are limits to what Bailey can show in a fourteen-minute film, the possibilities of this imaginative story leave the audience wanting more. The most ordinary of streets, for Bailey, can be the genesis for something unsettling and completely magical.

Watch The Crossroad on YouTube.

Oreo: Four Women’s Stories Exploring Black Identity and Nonconformity

Oreo explores identity and nonconformity through four different black women’s experiences. The short film centers around the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” It looks at black identity through religion, class, race, and culture, and does so while bending genres with moments of dark comedy and surrealism. Cashmere Jasmine, disabled writer, director and RespectAbility Lab 2021 alum, strings together these four stories to create a complex and compelling conversation around identity and feeling rejected.

It opens with Jennifer (Ria Ridley) realizing she got her Black Card revoked and has to call the Black Bank of America to confirm her identity through a series of questions about the culture. She eventually loses her card when the “bank tellers” hear her country music in the background. This hilarious satire lays the groundwork for the rest of the short film and does so brilliantly. [continue reading…]

Cooptation: Using Horror to Comment on Colorism

Cooptation film poster with a bloody knife next to beauty products and flowers in a vase. Tagline: "Beauty is deadly."RespectAbility 2021 Lab Alumna and Unstoppable Film Festival Founder Juliet Romeo’s short film Cooptation follows a young African American woman determined to fit into society’s beauty standards by using a new beauty product with deadly consequences. 

Cooptation’s opening credits are filled with melancholic shots of night life as we hear the hauntingly beautiful song “I’ll Understand” by Roza.

The music then changes to a more upbeat coffee shop tune as we see an African American beauty brand ambassador named Dove putting red lipstick on in front of a mirror. She is in the middle of a FaceTime call with her best friend Opal, when she talks about a new skin serum called “Snow White” that she’s been trying out. “Snow White” is branded as a solution to fading away all your dark spots.

Opal voices her reservation towards Dove using the product, saying that it doesn’t “sound Black-owned or operated,” but her concerns are quickly brushed off. Opal champions Dove’s appearance, saying that her natural beauty and intelligence is radiant enough, and doesn’t need any beauty product to blemish it. [continue reading…]

On Self-Love, Justice, and Empowerment: Interview with Tameka Citchen-Spruce

Tameka Citchen-Spruce headshotFilmmaker, screenwriter, activist, community organizer, volunteer, trailblazer. Tameka Citchen-Spruce (she/her) has accomplished a lot in her 15+ years of disability advocacy—and she shows no signs of slowing down.

Born in Detroit and raised in Oak Park, MI, Tameka got into a car accident at six months old that left her paralyzed from the mid-chest down, also called a T2 spinal cord injury, which requires her to use a wheelchair. She relied on her community for support, which proved challenging as a Black and disabled woman in the Midwest.

“My parents raised me to be ‘durable’ and exposed me to everything, so I was never sheltered growing up,” Tameka said. “But, you know, it was hard for me to accept my disability.” She was the only Black girl and wheelchair user at school. She dealt with colorism, ableism, racism, and faced ignorance from some church members who “eagerly pray[ed] for God to heal [her].”

It wasn’t until Tameka participated in—and won—Ms. Wheelchair MI 2006 that she took charge of her story. [continue reading…]

Casual Inclusion of Disability on Screen at Sundance Helps Normalize Having a Disability While Accessibility Hampers Inclusion of Disabled Attendees

Marquee for Sundance Film Festival, January 19-29, 2023Park City, Feb 5 – Feature-length films that premiered at Sundance such as Is There Anybody Out There?, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, and The Tuba Thieves, as well as a number of shorts, explicitly included elements of disability and deafness throughout. However, several additional films featured casual inclusion of disability, which also helps to normalize having a disability in society.

For example, a teenage camper in Theater Camp uses a power wheelchair. We see him both in a montage while auditioning for a show, and later rolling through camp. He is portrayed similarly to other campers. In Slow, contemporary dancer Elena (Greta Grinevičiūtė) meets Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas), who’s assigned to interpret for her class of deaf youth. While the film is not about this class but rather their relationship, the casual inclusion of this class helps normalize deaf students. In Magazine Dreams, aspiring professional bodybuilder Killian Maddox is a caregiver for his disabled grandfather. In a documentary about Little Richard, viewers learn that he had limb differences, mental health conditions, and later on in his life, became a wheelchair user. And in Chanshi, a series about a young Jewish Orthodox woman finding herself, mental health is discussed.

With one-in-five people having a disability in the U.S. today, the lack of representation – just 2.3 percent of characters in the 100 top-grossing films of 2019 and 8 percent in family films – means that millions of people are unable to see themselves reflected in media. While none of the films mentioned above are about disability, the casual inclusion of disability in them is important. [continue reading…]

Little Richard Review

still of Little Richard in a scene from Little Richard I Am Everything

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Los Angeles, Feb. 3 – A fiery escapism into the world of Little Richard, Director Lisa Cortés’ vision for storytelling is on excellent display throughout this entire documentary. We explore a side of Little Richard that even an avid fan myself found so much more insight and genius in who Little Richard was. The true pioneer and King of Rock N’ Roll, Little Richard inspired and launched the careers of so many legendary artists today such as Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, Mick Jagger, The Beatles and more. Little Richard: I Am Everything premiered Jan. 19 at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Little Richard explores his disabilities early on in the documentary, mentioning his limb differences, mental health, and later on in his life, becoming a wheelchair user. It was great to see Little Richard’s upbringing, getting a closer look on his journey and how early in his childhood he’s identified his gift through music. However, Little Richard went deeply into the things that he was struggling with. Whether it’s spiritual mortality, his musical legacy, getting the credit he deserved, or his sexuality in public spaces, you get a deep dive into Little’s Richard’s thoughts, regrets, perspective, and more.

CNN Films sold the rights to Little Richard: I Am Everything to Magnolia Pictures at Sundance, with plans to release the documentary in April. This is a much watch and I am looking forward to a chance of being able to see it again once released.

1 2 3 4 5 48 49
Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
43 Town & Country Drive
Suite 119-181
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Office Number: 202-517-6272


GuideStar Platinum

RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report is a GuideStar Platinum Participant. Guidestar Platinum Seal
© 2023 RespectAbility. All Rights Reserved. Site Design by Cool Gray Seven   |   Site Development by Web Symphonies   |      Sitemap

Back to Top

Translate »