Tools, skills and opportunities incubate at first-ever event
Lisa Bailey

Collaborating with Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture on the upcoming Wide Angle Media (WAM) Festival — the first festival in B.C. to feature films by people who have a disability — is building on a relationship with posAbilities to empower through expression and foster greater understanding through the arts.

S. Siobhan McCarthy, the festival’s producer and Kickstart’s co-executive director, says the two organizations have worked together on storytelling programs called Story Power with individuals supported by posAbilities, including work in a digital medium. She notes that a mini festival showcased some of the films created, with opportunities revealed to enhance individuals’ creativity even more through a filming frame.  A poet’s words, for example, could be punctuated with images reflecting the words spoken.

The WAM Festival, with a number of workshops on topics ranging from family animation and creative writing to writing for grants and making works more accessible with audio description and closed captioning, aims to provide tools that can enrich filmmakers and build on strong art programs like those facilitated at posAbilities. Siobhan says, for example, that individuals with sketching talents can learn to bring that art form to life.

“It’s about trying to give tools, skills and opportunities to the artists and to people in the disability community to articulate what’s going on between their ears and in their hearts and everywhere else, and to give them a voice,” she says.

Siobhan says the festival can “work as an incubator” to foster and develop artists who have a disability to become filmmakers and to provide opportunities to share their work and abilities. In this inaugural year, five filmmakers have been commissioned to create shorts with generously-sponsored production packages that will ensure the films are of broadcast quality, enabling the works to reach wider audiences through mainstream media like broadcast TV.

The commissioned shorts will be shown in two screenings at the March 22-25 festival, along with nightly showings of films by Canadian and international filmmakers running a gamut of subjects and genres.

PosAbilities, as a co-producer of the festival, is engaged in the event in various ways such as with volunteer support.

Forging connections with individuals who have a disability in person and through the films at the festival can be a conduit to changing wider perceptions about people who have a disability.

Siobhan says it’s exciting for Kickstart and posAbilities to pool resources and collaborate to foster empowerment, understanding and inclusion, so “we’re always focusing on ability rather than disability.”

The Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion is also a co-producer of the WAM Festival, which will primarily take place at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre.

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