Following discussions between Oska Bright (UK), Klappe Auf (Germany) and Engelsiz Festival (Turkey), the trio decided to self-initiate a network of trusted disability film festivals from across Europe. Joe Turnbull investigates the network and its constituent partners.
Since its inception in 2004, learning-disability film festival Oska Bright has had an increasingly international focus, with submissions coming from all over the world, and representatives from other disability film festivals descending on Brighton every two years from both near and far. Historically, Oska Bright has had the strongest ties with festivals based in English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia. But in recent years, there has been a significant shift towards Europe.
“The group came together in quite an organic way,” explains David Parker, Senior Producer Film & Digital at Oska Bright’s parent organisation, Carousel. “We’d been introduced to Klappe Auf (Hamburg) through our friends at Barner 16 (Hamburg). Barner 16 have had quite a few films in the Oska Bright Film Festival, and we’ve visited each other in the past.” In October 2018, both Oska Bright and Klappe Auf attended Engelsiz Festival in Ankara, Turkey, at which the three organisations discussed creating a network. “We agreed to invite festivals that we knew well, and that we trusted,” says Parker. Klappe Auf received funding to host the first meeting, in Hamburg, in March of this year.
Joining Klappe Auf, Engelsiz Festival and Oska Bright in Hamburg were Integration You and Me (Poland), The Extraordinary Film Festival (Belgium) and Inclus (Spain). Additionally, Serbia’s Bosifest is set to join the network in the future.
“I was so excited to be invited to Hamburg,” recalls Matthew Hellet, Oska Bright’s Head Programmer. “We’ve been fans of Klappe Auf! Film Festival for a long time so it was great to meet them. At the meeting we spent time getting to know each other and our respective festivals. We know from our Oska Bright submissions that there’s really progressive and exciting work being produced across Europe. Being able to meet in person is so valuable and we agreed on the aims for the network.”
Parker explains the overarching aims of the network:
Strength in numbers, we all agreed that we could make a bigger noise if we join together.
Share our skills and knowledge with each other, share opportunities, seek joint funding together.
Our festivals all have a mission to be included in the film culture of our respective nations. We feel that together we demonstrate a strength across borders and language, a common purpose.
To share content – to get the films out to a wider audience.
In addition to those overarching aims, the group agreed in Hamburg to work together on a co-curated collaborative screening, containing films from each of the partners. This programme will premiere on 26 October at Oska Bright Film Festival, Brighton. In order to make the selection as accessible as possible, the network used non-verbal films as a starting point. Each festival will produce Audio Description in their own language for the screening. The programme of films will be screened at each of the respective partner’s festivals.
Going forwards, the partners will try and visit each other’s festivals, which presents a challenge as all of the network’s festivals take place in Autumn (September-November). The plan is to meet at least once a year to discuss strategic aims.
There was huge energy and excitement about the collaboration. We have lots to learn from each other and lots of support we can offer each other. There are common challenges to overcome such as fundraising, sponsorship, negative perceptions and limited resources for our work. But by creating a joint platform to make our films visible, sharing our screens and thereby our audiences, we hope the impetus and appetite for learning disability film will grow. Whatever happens in the UK in October, at Oska Bright Film Festival 2019 we’re celebrating with our European partners; stronger, prouder and louder. If we meet our long term aims on inclusion and equality of opportunity, we no longer need to exist as disability film festivals. Maybe then I’ll buy a cinema membership and I can watch a diversity of film on screen that we all deserve.David Parker
KLAPPE AUF! Hamburg, Germany
- Founded in 2011 by Andreas Grützner.
- Takes place every 2 years in November (4th edition in 2019).
- Screens 35 short films.
- Films are accessible to people with disabilities and shown with audio description etc, but not necessarily about disability as a topic.
- 12 part time team members.
- 5 awards: 3 jury awards, 1 team, 1 audience (special voting tickets with Braille).
- Receives about 2000 film submissions.
- Each edition has a theme, this year it is “Feelings and other catastrophes”.
THE EXTRAORDINARY FILM FESTIVAL, Namur, Belgium
- Founded in 2010 by director Luc Boland.
- Takes place every 2 years in November (5th edition in 2019).
- Screens about 50 films (short films and features).
- Shows films about disability at large and/or made by team with disabled members.
- Festival is accessible and offers audio description etc as well as devices for the non-disabled audience to experience how it might feel to be blind or deaf.
- 3 full time employees, 3 all year volunteers, 60-80 volunteers during the festival.
- Festival is produced by non profit EOP! (extra&ordinary people).
- 8-10 awards including jury, audience, partnership branded, feature and short by Belgian French speaking TV (RTBF): the winning films to be shown on RTBF.
- Receives about 1700 film submissions. Preselection by Luc, 2 people from the film industry and 2 people with disabilities.
- 2 days before festival an “appetizing” short film selection is being shown in 6 other Belgian cities (2-3 school sessions, 2-3 sessions for the public).
- Additional program during the festival: shows, concerts, art exhibits by people with disabilities. Master classes for film professionals and people with disabilities on filmmaking, acting, communicating this topic in film & TV (e.g. with director Genevieve Clay who works with disabled and non-disabled people).
- Q&A after each screening, usually have an expert or organization (e.g. A for Autism) explain and talk with the audience about the topic.
- Audience: goal is to reach general public, growing 15-20% with each festival, only 5% with disability. In 2017 about 5700 people attended, among them 2000 students.
OSKA BRIGHT, Brighton, UK
- Founded in 2004.
- Takes place every 2 years. Started as 1 day, now runs for 4 days.
- The name references the Oscars and the city of Brighton.
- 4-5 team members, 8-9 committee of people with learning disabilities (also has people with dyslexia on the team).
- Festival is accessible, offers audio description and sign language.
- Platform for films made by or about people with learning disabilities, encourages a learning disabled audience to come to the cinema.
- Audience: 3647 people in 2017. Started with majority of disabled audience (mostly learning disabled), since 2011 non-disabled audience has increased to 60%.
- Additional program during the festival: shows, Q&A.
- Additional activities throughout the year: on tour with films, screenings, Q&A and workshops in the UK and around the world.
FESTIVAL INCLÚS Barcelona, Spain
- Founded in 2013.
- Takes place every year.
- Shows films either about disability or made by disabled people.
- Reviews about 350 films (length max. 120 min, done in the past 2 years).
- 5 awards: documentary and fiction, short and feature length, audience.
- From 15-20 films, a jury of members of the Catalan film industry selects winners.Additional program during the festival: Q&A, children’s workshops, professional workshops (e.g. about sign language or dubbing), conferences, Inclús Pocket (short animated films for kids) and theatre.
- Shows films with restricted vision or sound as an experience for the non-disabled.
- Additional program throughout the year: travels with films beyond Barcelona. Has to be translated to Spanish since subtitling, audio etc. is usually in Catalan.
- Monthly screening of a film from the festival in a cinema, plus Q&A.
- Audience: about 2600 people, no specific numbers about disabled audience.
- Shows short films which present local associations working with disabled people.
- There is a small ticket fee.
EUROPEJSKI FESTIWAL FILMOWY INTEGRACJA TY I JA, (Integration You and Me) Koszalin, Poland
- Founded in 2003.
- Takes place every year in September (16th edition in 2019).
- Screens about 50 films.
- All films are accessible and have audio description and subtitles.
- 3 full time employees, 10-12 people before festival, 50 volunteers during festival.
- Every year has a different topic, but this doesn’t dictate the film part of the festival.
- 5 awards: documentary, feature, amateur, audience, young jury.
- Additional program during the festival: conferences, workshops, concerts, exhibitions, events, performances.
- Local communities in 50 other Polish cities organize activities and small presentations at the same time as main festival (most locations are accessible).
- Audience: about 7000 people per year.
- For 6 years, regularly presents films and photo exhibits at the European Parliament.
ACCESSIBLE FILM FESTIVAL (Engelsiz Filmler Festivali), Ankara, Turkey
- Founded in 2013.
- Takes place every year (7th edition in October 2019).
- Takes place in 3 cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Eskişehir.
- Screens about 40 films.
- Films are accessible with audio description etc, plus autism friendly screening.
- 3 full time employees, more people during festival.
- Awards: script, director, movie, audience, shorts, features, documentary.
- Additional program during the festival: children’s workshops, Virtual Reality program, e.g. Notes on Blindness, and Unrest (about chronic fatigue syndrome).
- Audience: 50/50 men/women, 29% disabled, a lot of young people (numbers based on a survey handed out to the audience).
- Collaborated with Klappe Auf! and Oska Bright this year for short film selection.
- Wants to include more people with disabilities in organization of festival.