Spotlight Jake interviews veteran film festival director
Michelle Strutzenberger

As the father of a child who has a hearing impairment, Alan Franey says he’s tried to see as many films as he can featuring people who have a hearing impairment as well as other types of sensory impairments. He’s been struck at how often they’re portrayed as metaphors.

This is one of the insights the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) director shares with posAbilities’ Jake Anthony in a recent video interview.

Working as posAbilities’ arts correspondent, Jake, otherwise known as Spotlight Jake, was able to meet and interview the newly retired festival director at the Vancity Theatre where VIFF is held each year.

In the video interview, Jake tells Alan that he himself has a disability and so is especially interested to hear how the portrayal of people who have a disability has changed in the film industry.

In a follow-up interview with posAbilities Today, Alan expands on his answer to Jake’s question.

“Films are a really good way of understanding other perspectives, that’s at the core of our mandate (at VIFF), is understanding other nations and understanding other people,” Alan says.

“The function of storytelling and art is to help to understand the perspectives of other people.”

Jake Anthony

Jake Anthony

In his more than 25 years of reviewing about 500 films annually, Alan says he’s seen many that include people who have a disability. “Sometimes they’re insightful and empathetic and other times not,” he says.

Often, as mentioned above, the portrayal of the person who has a disability is not as full as it could be, holding them as a metaphor for some greater idea, “which is OK to a certain point,” he says.

“But it’s nice when you encounter a film which really gets deeper than that and has the full human experience represented in that person.

“Because we’re people first,” Alan adds. “I mean, that’s the point. We actually have a lot more in common as human beings.”

Alan says he appreciated the fact that Jake’s interview was as in-depth as it was. “Obviously he took a lot of care with it and is passionate about movies.”

Jake says he found the director’s hospitality throughout the interview experience most energizing. “He gave us the whole grand tour (of the Vancity Theatre).”

Jake has reviewed various arts-related events and products in his role as arts correspondent.

Trying his hand at everything from crafting the questions to “starring” to video editing, he says he loves his work.  “It really is a lot of fun.

“It’s also great because this way I can help to show that in the arts community, there is so much diversity and there are so many different types of movies and performances and events in general.”

Another recent high point in his new role was reviewing the Kickstart Festival of Disability Arts last month. He featured performers who have a disability and who were “just amazing, just very talented.”

“It’s nice to be able to spread the message that, as people with special needs, we’re capable of being just as successful in the arts and in our industry as anybody else,” says Jake.

Watch for movie reviews Spotlight Jake will be releasing in the next couple of months.

Click here to watch Jake’s interview with Alan.

Related story: Lights, camera, action on ‘Spotlight Jake’

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)