The Reelabilities Film Festival Returns to Manhattan College

The films showcase stories real and fictional, about the lives of people coping with disabilities.

The Reelabilities Film Festival: New York is returning to Manhattan College on May 2 and 3. Founded in 2007, it is the largest festival in the United States promoting the stories and work of people with disabilities. The festival will present the College community with three highly acclaimed films followed by post-screening discussions with members of the film's creative teams. Reelabilities also presents its programming in cities throughout the U.S., Canada and Central America. Michelle from the film Being Michelle

On Tuesday, May 2, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the festival will kick off with Being Michelle, an award-winning, feature-length documentary directed by Atin Mehra about a deaf woman with autism who survived years of abuse and incarceration and now uses her artwork as an outlet to process her trauma. The screening of Being Michelle will be followed by a discussion with its director, Atin Mehra, as well as producer Mae Mehra, executive producer Delbert Whetter, social impact adviser Mel Kennedy, among others.  One of the film’s major goals is to raise awareness about the “disproportionate impact of incarceration and systematic discrimination of deaf and disabled people.” Being Michelle won five film festival awards in 2022 and 2023. 

On Wednesday, May 3, from noon to 2 p.m., the festival is devoted to “Reelshorts,” a series of three short films. The films are: Breathe, directed by Zack Norrington, Neurodivergent, directed by Afton Quast Saler and Remedial, directed by Laurie Gardiner. All three directors will be in attendance at the post-film discussion. Julie Ridge, the protagonist of Breathe and Kim Reed, an actor who stars in Remedial, will also be part of the discussion. 

Breathe is a short documentary that tells the story of Julie Ridge, who discusses her struggles with bipolar disorder, and marathon swimming has helped in her life’s journey. Neurodivergent is a short, mixed media experience that focuses on a 35-year-old film student dealing with ADHD.  Remedial is a coming-of-age story about a British boy who moves to Houston with his mother after a terrible loss. The boy's behavior in school begins to alarm one of his teachers. 

“It is an honor for Manhattan College to participate in the Reelabilities Film Festival for the third year,” said Ruth Zealand, professor of education. “As a Lasallian institution, we celebrate diversity and through these films we will enhance awareness of individuals with disabilities and capabilities.”

 The program will be held on both days at Raymond W. Kelly ‘63 Student Commons, room 5B. The festival is free and open to the public. 

By David Koeppel