‘CinemAbility’ Documentary Shines Light on Disability in Film

Wednesday’s SAG-AFTRA-sponsored screening of Jenni Gold’s documentary “CinemAbility” drew several hundred viewers to the Arclight Hollywood — with the director expressing plenty of affection for film industry.

“I love Hollywood,” Gold told the audience. “I love this art form and it’s powerful. The true American art form has stories that have not been told.”

“CinemAbility” explores the portrayals of disability story lines in film and TV dating back to the silent film era and covering such landmark films as “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” “Children of a Lesser God,” “Ray,” and “Door to Door.” Jane Seymour provides the narration.

The event drew an impressive lineup of speakers: DGA President Paris Barclay, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris, “Speechless” star Cedric Yarbrough, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” director James Keach and disabled actor Kurt Yaeger, who was cast by Barclay in “Sons of Anarchy.”

“To tell the stories of things I don’t know about is much more interesting to me than what I do know,” Keach noted.

Carteris said Gold’s work is a reminder of the need for truthful portrayals. She said that the subject is near to her due to the injuries she suffered a decade ago on the movie “Past Tense” — which left her unable to speak for months — and her reluctance to discuss it for a year.

“I didn’t want anyone in the business to know,” she added. “But the perfection of who we are is our imperfection. We need to be reflecting the real world up there.”

Yarbrough serves as the voice for Micah Fowler’s character, who can’t verbalize due to cerebral palsy.

“I want to make sure I’m visible as sort of a spokesman for the show,” he noted. “It’s been eye-opening to me and I’m as diverse as they come.  I  liken this to my mother growing up in the South in the 1960s when everyone in the town would go to see James Brown on ‘Ed Sullivan.'”

Yaeger, who lost a leg a decade in a motorcycle accident, noted that Hollywood needs to reach out to disabled actors to get truthful stories. “It’s the discovery of what we don’t know that actually creates great art,” he added.

Barclay credited Gold for making him aware of the need to cast a net for disabled performers. “We need to see everybody; when I’ve done that, we’ve found the right actor,” he added.

Barclay also mused that creating memorable movies and TV is a crucial political statement nowadays. “In the Trump era, all we can do is turn to our art and try to change people’s minds,” he added.

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