The show is going on

Plenty has been happening on in the arts for people with learning disabilities. Tracey Harding watches some touching short films and looks forward to a festival.

Disabled Not Defeated. The Rock Band with Learning Disabilities – Delta 7


Oska Bright Film Festival
Oska Bites

There is no doubt that organisations and performers are facing significant threats to their careers and livelihoods after the pandemic.

Employment is precarious and insecure, according to UK Disability Arts Alliance’s report We Shall Not Be Removed, the first survey of its kind to look at the disability arts sector after the pandemic. It recommends additional targeted financial support to avoid further inequality for an already-disadvantaged group.

Nonetheless, some great work has been produced. Here are some you may have missed and some to look out for.

Short films explore punk, grief and desire

Finding homes for supported living can be difficult. Lisa Brown is bringing property investors and care providers together to design and create accommodation to meet various needs.

Disabled Not Defeated, a 20-minute film made in 2018 by Rosie Baldwin, received a BAFTA nomination this year.

The documentary began as a showcase for a seven-piece post-punk band learning disabilities who had formed after completing a music course run by Culture Shift, an organisation supporting creativity with different groups across Sussex.

Baldwin initially intended to highlight the energy, musical talents and personalities of the band but, two months into filming, their mentor and friend Tom Selway took his life, and the film grew into a bigger story around the processes of love, grief and the strength found in music and the support of friends.

Planned festival screenings were thwarted by the pandemic but the film has been seen online by 40,000 people across the world. The documentary is life affirming, uplifting and a testament to the power of friendship. A must watch.

A critically acclaimed short film from last year is S.A.M.. This 16-minute film from Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely tells the story of a budding love affair between two teenage boys, both called Sam, one of whom has Down syndrome.

Set in a Manchester playground, the film is rare in its on-screen representation of someone with a learning disability who is also navigating his sexuality.

One of the Sams is played by George Webster, a Mencap ambassador. He says: ŇThe film is important to me because it’s about being yourself, accepting yourself, and accepting others for who they are.Ó

Eyre-Morgan and Ely considered how to work inclusively both behind and in front of the camera. They hope S.A.M. will be developed into a full-length feature film.

S.A.M. was shown at film festivals last year but the pandemic paused distribution. It is not available online now, but is certainly one to look out for.

Webster is also to star in a new science fiction film BEBE AI, which has an intriguing storyline: a young couple who have Down syndrome battle to overcome prejudice to save and adopt a baby android. The film is crowdfunding so it can be completed.

Festival grows and grows

Finding homes for supported living can be difficult. Lisa Brown is bringing property investors and care providers together to design and create accommodation to meet various needs.

Oska Bright is the world’s leading festival for films made by or featuring people with learning disabilities. Founded in 2004, it has grown hugely and has become a renowned platform for creative, independent, learning disability-led film making. At the most recent festival in 2019, 99 films from 15 countries were shown.

The next festival in 2022 will be the first time it qualifies for the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). This features creative independent film making and for Oska Bright to be included is testament to the quality of the films contributed by learning-disabled filmmakers in the UK and beyond.

For 2021 the festival has put together online content, Oska Bites, featuring some of the shorts from 2019. The last edition featured four films from around the world and heard from learning disabled people around the UK about their love of film. The move online also includes chats and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.

It included The Magic of Cinema by Linda Curtin, which features artists with learning disabilities who contributed art forms including painting, sculpture and performance. The 6-minute film is atmospheric and beautiful to watch. Also featured was Poti Pictures, from Tuscany, Italy, which uses stylised production techniques to create short films, video clips and documentaries inspired by social issues. The company’s Uonted! tells the story of Tiziano who desperately wants to see the Old West at an amusement park.

Oska Bright’s continuing success demonstrates the depth and quality of films put together by a dedicated and talented team of programmers. There will be more coverage of the festival in the next issue.

Landing a Spielberg role

Finding homes for supported living can be difficult. Lisa Brown is bringing property investors and care providers together to design and create accommodation to meet various needs.

Finally, Tommy Jessop, best known for his role in Line of Duty, has landed a part in a Stephen Spielberg series. Masters of the Air is a Second World War drama produced by Spielberg and Tom Hanks for Apple TV+.

Jessop featured in the previous two issues of Community Living and there is no doubt he is be a trailblazer and role model for people with learning disabilities.