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Hollywood Inclusion

“892” Tells A True Story About One Man’s Journey with Mental Illness and Systemic Failure

John Boyega plays desperate and disabled Marine veteran Brian Brown-Easley in "892."

Courtesy Of Sundance Institute | Photo By Chris Witt

Los Angeles, CA, January 28 – “892” is a film that stands out with beautiful cinematography, strong characters, and a powerful message. Recently making its debut at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, the film tells the true story of Marine veteran and father, Brian Brown-Easley, and his experiences with PTSD, schizophrenia, and paranoia while living in a $25 daily-rate motel in Atlanta, GA, and a system that failed him.

“I have to tell my story.” These words said by Brown-Easley couldn’t be more true, and he will get his wish with “892,” which highlights the valuable lessons the audience will learn after watching it.

Leading actor John Boyega gives a masterclass performance as Brian Brown-Easley, taking us through the various stages of his moods: paranoia, shyness, rage, and so much more. One of the sad moments for me was realizing this was actor Michael K. Williams’ last role, who tragically passed away in September 2021. In the film, Michael K. Williams played Eli Bernard, a Marine veteran, who now leads a law enforcement team that is called to the Wells Fargo Bank that Brown-Easley is holding hostage to gain media attention to share his story. Eli was one of the few people in this film that showed an understanding with Brown-Easley that not many others can relate to. [continue reading…]

“I Didn’t See You There” Brings a Fresh Perspective to How Disabled People View (And Are Viewed By) The World

Reid Davenport in his wheelchair in a scene from I Didn't See You ThereLos Angeles, CA, Jan. 27 – “I Didn’t See You There” is the first feature-length documentary from award-winning Disabled filmmaker, Reid Davenport. Premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, the powerful film immerses viewers into the day-to-day perspective of a wheelchair user, asking its audience to grapple with the way Disabled people are seen by the world, and thus how Disabled people see the world around them.

Perhaps the film’s most effective choice is that Davenport himself is almost never seen on-camera, save for a few quick glimpses in a window reflection, or his hands entering frame to pour a drink or grab a nearby object. This allows Davenport to show the audience how he sees the world without having to feel like an on-screen spectacle, which in itself is a strong commentary on how Disabled people historically have been viewed and treated by society.

“I wanted to make a film about how I saw the world,” Davenport narrates at the opening of the film. “I thought if I stayed firmly behind the camera, I could show you how I see, without having to be seen.” [continue reading…]

“Nothing Compares”: New Documentary Film Examines Media Portrayal of Pop Icon and Mental Health Trailblazer, Sinead O’Connor

“They tried to bury me, they didn’t realize I was a seed.” – Sinead O’Connor

Black and white photo of Sinead O'Connor with her head in her hands.

Sinead O’Connor

Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 27 – In her debut feature film, Nothing Compares, director Kathryn Ferguson explores the tumultuous early career of singer-songwriter turned pop icon, Sinead O’Connor. The film expertly weaves together a combination of archival footage, cinematic re-enactments, and exclusive audio interviews with a number of prominent activists, experts, and musicians including Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre), Peaches, Chuck D (Public Enemy), and more (including O’Connor herself) to dive into the way O’Connor was portrayed by the media during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A recurring theme throughout the film is mental health – a theme that feels especially timely, given O’Connor’s recent hospitalization after her son’s death, just weeks before the film’s debut. As a survivor of both physical and emotional abuse, O’Connor always has openly discussed her journey with mental illness over the years. [continue reading…]

Cha Cha Real Smooth: An Honest Look at Coming-of-Age and Complex Love

Dakota Johnson and a man in a scene from Cha Cha Real Smooth, looking at each other.

Dakota Johnson appears in CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH by Cooper Raiff. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Los Angeles, Jan. 27 – In the first big buy of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, Apple has purchased Cooper Raiff’s Cha Cha Real Smooth for $15 million. This feature film, which premiered at the festival, is noteworthy in many ways. The first word that comes to mind when describing Cha Cha Real Smooth is “honest.” Other reviews agree. For example, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich called this film a “disarmingly honest indie about feeling lost in your own life.” Truthfulness emanates from every character. The film follows Andrew (Raiff), a charismatic Bar Mitzvah party starter who quickly befriends Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her middle school-aged autistic daughter, Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). Burghardt was authentically cast; this is her first professional production. [continue reading…]

Moïse Togo’s “$75,000” Highlights the Gravity of Violence Against People with Albinism

In some African countries, a complete skeleton of albinos can be exchanged for up to $75,000.

A still from $75000 with two transparent people walking

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Moïse Togo.

Los Angeles, CA, Jan 24 – “$75,000” is a 14-minute short film that immediately captivates the viewer. Spoken in rhythmic first-person voice overs in the languages of Bamabara, Fon, and Yoruba with English subtitles, the narration is based on actual testimonies collected by writer/director Moïse Togo.

Focusing on the physical and moral conditions of people living with albinism in Africa, Togo said he was touched by the story of a 5-year-old girl with albinism who was kidnapped and killed.

“I felt the need to express myself on this phenomenon,” he said during a Q&A following the international short documentary’s premiere at 2022 Sundance Film Festival. [continue reading…]

2022 Sundance Film Festival Shines the Spotlight on Authenticity and Accessibility

Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 21 – 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.

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival (January 20 – 30) will provide an opportunity for audiences with various disabilities to see themselves represented – all from the comfort of their homes through the virtual festival site. This year, several films feature disability in the plot, including 892, 75,000, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Chilly and Milly, I Didn’t See You There, and Sharp Stick, among others. [continue reading…]

Newcomer Jeremy Hsing Sheds an Authentic Light on AAPI Intergenerational Mental Health Trauma in Iridescence

Iridescence film poster.Los Angeles, CA, January 13 – When filmmaker Jeremy Hsing set out to create his first short film in the wake of the pandemic, his goal was to create a film that amplified underrepresented voices and destigmatize mental health after a year of unprecedented hate toward the AAPI community. With a majority POC cast and crew combined with a tremendous labor of love, Hsing wrote, directed, and brought Iridescence to life.

Iridescence tells the story of a nuclear Chinese-American family. At the center is Christian, the teenaged son with anxiety who experiences his first panic attack after an argument with his father. As the events unfold, the audience learns that like Christian, his father also experiences anxiety, shedding light on the intergenerational mental health trauma often seen in first-generation AAPI families, yet rarely goes acknowledged. [continue reading…]

Ahead of Golden Globes, Shining a Spotlight on Disability-Inclusive Nominations

A golden globe statue next to a screen with the logo for Golden Globe Awards and text reading 2022 nominationsLos Angeles, Jan. 6 – While the Golden Globes will not air on television this year, it is important to note that several disability-inclusive films and television series have been nominated.

As the Hollywood Foreign Press Association continues to overhaul its bylaws, making changes addressing ethics and code of conduct, diversity, equity and inclusion, governance, and membership following criticism of the organization’s lack of diversity, this year’s program will showcase the organization’s philanthropy work. Grantees, including RespectAbility, have been invited to attend.

With one-in-four adults having a disability in the U.S. today, the lack of representation – just 3.5 percent of characters on TV and 2.3 percent on film  – means that millions of people are unable to see themselves in media today. This makes it so important that several of the nominations this year feature disabled individuals. This includes a focus on deaf and ASL representation with the nominations of “CODA” and “Only Murders in the Building.” [continue reading…]

Netflix’s “All the Light We Cannot See” Authentically Casts Newcomer Aria Mia Loberti

Aria Mia Loberti headshot

Aria Mia Lobreti as self in All the Light We Cannot See. Cr. Ryan Collerd/Netflix © 2021

Los Angeles, Dec. 9 – Following a a worldwide search for blind and low vision actresses, Aria Mia Loberti will make her acting debut in the bestselling Pulitzer Prize winning adaptation of “All the Light We Cannot See.”

Loberti will play Marie-Laure, a blind teenager, whose path collides with Werner, a German soldier, as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II in occupied France. While she has no formal acting training, she beat out thousands of submissions.

She also is an advocate for people with disabilities, especially those who, like she, are blind or low-vision. These efforts have taken her from her small Rhode Island hometown to global forums like the United Nations, UN Women, TEDx, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and beyond. [continue reading…]

Zeno Mountain Farm Wins Media Access Award for Groundbreaking Film “Best Summer Ever”

Rickey Alexander Wilson and Shannon DeVido singing in a scene from Best Summer Ever. Logo for the film.Los Angeles, Dec. 9 – Zeno Mountain Farm continues to welcome honors following the production of award-winning feature film Best Summer Ever, an inclusive musical featuring eight original songs and a fully-integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities. At the 2021 Media Access Awards last month, Zeno Mountain Farm won the SAG – AFTRA Disability Awareness Award, an annual award presented to an individual or organization for their work advancing the public awareness of the vast potential of disabled Americans.

The Media Access Awards honors people in the film and television industries who are advancing the accurate portrayals and employment of people with disabilities. This annual show, done in partnership with Easterseals Disability Services, honors entertainment industry professionals who have advanced authentic disability-related narratives and employment in fields of writing, producing, casting, performance, and directing. [continue reading…]

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