During the next few weeks Twin Citians will enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to view and read about the lives and media triumphs of people with disabilities – and how their stories are told in the media.
The premiere of the documentary, The Real Story, produced by Access Press (http://www.accesspress.org), Minnesota’s disability community newspaper, and Verso Creative is set for October 28. Funded in part by UCare, the documentary explores issues related to past and present media coverage of disability issues.
Producers of The Real Story note that “the real story is how news coverage of disability issues has changed over the years.” According to Access Press, “investigative journalists, particularly in Minnesota, have been instrumental in advancing the cause of equal rights for people with disabilities. Starting in the 1940’s and culminating in the 1970’s journalists reported on the horrible conditions of state institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That reporting led to changes that improved the lives of many people.”
Still, “stories intended to be factual are often influenced by misconceptions that are ultimately harmful to people with disabilities.” Though in some cases the mainstream media recognize their own biased reporting, in other cases, stereotypes persist. According to Access Press “too often stories about disability are more inspirational than factual, or rely on old stereotypes…..People are either portrayed as heroic figures or as objects of pity. “ Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin has observed that “we used to do stories … that were more charity stories.”
One significant challenge reflected in The Real Story is the role of self-advocacy as an instrument of change. “Being a self-advocate is a benchmark of the community now as people are encouraged to speak up for themselves.”
The Real Story premiers on Monday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. at the U of M Alumni Center; the documentary will be shown again on Monday, November 4, 4:00 p.m. at Coffman Union on the U of M campus. Both events are sponsored by the U of M Disabled Students Cultural Center and Access Press. The free and open screenings will include a panel discussion with newsmakers, scholars, activists – and refreshments.
A second opportunity to explore the lives and work of people with disabilities is set for early November. ReelAbilities: New York Disabilities Film Festival (www.reelabilities.org) is hosted locally by Partnership Resources, Inc. a nonprofit that provides employment and arts experience opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
This is the Minnesota premiere of “the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.” The local festival, November 1-5, opens on Friday, November 1, with a noontime program at MacPhail Center for Music and a reception that evening at Pracna on Main.
Venues for the showings of the nine featured films include MacPhail Center for Music, the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center. All venues are fully accessible. Post-screening discussions and other programs “bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.” There’s a complete schedule of events and background online at http://Minneapolis.reelabilities.org/schedule.