A cavalcade of stars, including superstars Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Marlee Matlin, Gary Sinise, Jane Seymour, William H.Macy and Geena Davis, feature in CinemAbility : The Art of Inclusion, releasing October 5 on digital from Leomark Studios.
From Director Jenni Gold, the 1st wheelchair using female in the Director’s Guild, and released to coincide with October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month,CinemAbility reveals a compelling and often amusing look at the history of disability portrayals in entertainment. From the early days of silent films to present-day Hollywood blockbusters, this historic film takes a detailed look at the evolution of “disability” in entertainment over the last 120 years by going behind the scenes to interview celebrities, filmmakers, and studio executives.
With heart and humor, CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion utilizes clips from Hollywood’s most beloved motion pictures and television programs to shine a light on how the media impacts society and the monumental effect these portrayals have on inclusion.
Featuring Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Marlee Matlin, Gary Sinise, Jane Seymour, Adam Arkin, William H.Macy, Helen Hunt, Kyle MacLachlan, Daryl Mitchell, Beau Bridges, Richard Donner, Peter Farrelly, Randal Kleiser and many more!
CinemAbility : The Art of Inclusion, written by Jenni Gold and Samuel W. Reed, releases on VOD October 5 from Leomark Studios.
CinemAbility is in part a love letter to Hollywood, an industry that has consumed my life, and partly a wake-up call. Growing up as a wheelchair user I found many of the representations of people with disabilities on screen to be confusing. I remember every year my family would watch Affair to Remember when it aired on TV and I always found it odd that after Deborah Kerr became a wheelchair user she could no longer pursue the man she loved. I remember hating the sappy Movie of the Week style representations in the 70’s and 80’s. The person in the wheelchair was always syrupy sweet or angry and bitter. It wasn’t until Friday the 13th part 2 came out that I saw a wheelchair user the way I wanted to be seen. He was a cool teenager hanging out in the cabin in the woods just like everyone else, he had a girlfriend just like everyone else, and right before he was about to have the night of his life, he got killed by Jason, just like everyone else. His disability was not the topic and was not a factor in his story line.
As a filmmaker who loves the rich history of Hollywood, I realized that a historical overview of disability portrayals had never been done, and that’s certainly one of the aspects of the project that drew me in. It was fresh and exciting, but as we continued to research and interview more people about their recollections of disability portrayals in film it became clear that this was not the whole story. There was more behind these characters and depictions than the stereotypes that emerged, which in some instances are still adhered to. In fact, what we found was much richer, in that there is a strong correlation between these depictions and how people with disabilities are treated, and as portrayals have become more well-rounded and realistic, actual people with disabilities have become more accepted socially, and more integrated into society.
Being a director with a disability and the only DGA wheelchair using director member, the last thing I wanted to do was make another cookie-cutter documentary about disability. But soon I realized that a film like CinemAbility must be made, and if not by me then who? I knew this story first hand and I knew how to tell it. So, slowly I started to pitch it and soon I was interviewing A-List Academy Award Winners, Academy of Motion Picture and Guild Presidents, Producers, Studio Executives and the Showrunners of some of the hottest shows on TV. Hollywood heavyweights came to the forefront because these are caring people who are interested in good causes, and they realize inclusion is important. They all had something viable and important to say and even had some personal realizations that I caught on camera.
By connecting the dots between how people with disabilities are portrayed and how they are perceived in public, we were able to broaden the story beyond disability, to any minority group that has at one time or other been underrepresented or misrepresented in our media. We show how Sydney Poitier films impacted an entire Civil Rights Movement and how Will & Grace opened the door for homosexual civil rights. But where did that leave people with disabilities.
I found out very quickly that the changing of portrayals of disabilities in the 80’s lead us toward a major victory in 1990 with the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but after a backslide in these depictions, we might be able to get into the building, but what was the perception of people like me once we were in it? Would there be job opportunities if perceptions were still based on the understanding one gets from what we see in the media?
It suddenly became clear to me that this film was much more important than just recapping the history of a few interesting characters in the history of film, but about documenting the shaping of perceptions of minority groups through the media. And in doing so, I created a platform to do some reshaping of my own. This film has the ability to break down these stereotypes in a way that had never been done before. And most importantly it is done in a fun and entertaining way! People normally hear about a disability-themed documentary and they run for the hills, but those brave enough to take a peek are shocked to find they have a good time and laugh while also being challenged intellectually. As a storyteller, that is my entire goal.
When we started this project over a decade ago, disability was not included in most diversity initiatives, but that is now changing due to new crop of talented, passionate & determined actors with disabilities who have stormed into Hollywood and aren’t taking “no” for an answer. Enlightened Showrunners and Producers are also starting to take chances on stories, characters, and actors that are “different,” and yet it still remains that hardly anyone with a disability is working behind the scenes in Hollywood. It seems to be the perfect time for CinemAbility to open people’s eyes to something new.
Emmy Winner Jenni Gold is considered a triple threat in the world of entertainment. Her editing and screenwriting skills serve as a foundation for her directorial efforts which have received multiple awards and have placed her among the best in her field. As the only female wheelchair using Director Member of the Directors Guild of America, Jenni is the co-founder of Gold Pictures, Inc, a development and production company which was established in 2001.
In addition to directing the award-winning film CinemAbility, Jenni has become an expert on the power the media has in shaping perceptions, and is an advocate for total inclusion. She serves on the advisory board of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and has produced a number of films and corporate web series, servicing such well-known clients as The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
Jenni recently co-produced the soon-to-be-released film Tiger starring Mickey Rourke and Janel Parrish, and she is in post on a horror/comedy film which she directed titled, Aaah Roach, starring Casper Van Dien, Grace Van Dien, Barry Bostwick, and Jason Mewes. Jenni has also co-written and is developing a number of narrative feature films including the suspense thriller Adrenaline and a family film, Lucky. Jenni was also interviewed along with many other high-powered female directors in the newly released documentary This Changes Everything about discrimination in Hollywood.
We have been lucky to see some amazing documentaries about famous actors over the past twelve months. There were the sensational I Am Heath Ledger and I Am Paul Walker now comes McKellen: Playing The Part, a documentary that celebrates the life and career of Sir Ian McKellen.
Know to modern day audiences for his portrayal of Magneto in the X-Men franchise and for his legendary role as Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit films a documentary about this amazing man’s life is a must see.
Opening in cinemas on the 4th October we are giving you the chance to win tickets to see McKellen: Playing The Part thanks to Icon. Simply go to our Facebook page, like the page and private message telling us what is your favourite Ian McKellen role and why.
Upstream Flix is partnering again with Award winning producer Adam Scorgie (Ice Guardians, The Culture High, Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo) in conjunction with Oilers Entertainment Group VP Don Metz and Co-Producer Shane Fennessey for Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story. Upstream Flix plan to release the film in late 2018.
Don Metz directs this captivating cinematic chronicle on one of the most celebrated, yet enigmatic goalies in the history of the NHL. The feature has been announced as the closing Gala film at the Calgary International Film Festival.
Featured contributors in the documentary include Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Martin Brodeur, Brett Hull, Chris Pronger and many more of the NHL’s royalty.
Fuhr, along with a number of his teammates, will provide a never-before-seen exclusive look into the high-flying Oilers dynasty of the 80’s, what made them so successful, and the infamous challenges that they faced. All-time rivals will speak to what it was like playing against the greatest goalie on the greatest team in the NHL’s 100-year history. Those closest to Grant will take the audience on a journey behind the mask to understand who the mixed-race superstar truly is.
Barely 19, Grant ‘Coco’ Fuhr became starting goalie for the most exciting team in NHL history. In his mid-30’s, he played 76 consecutive and 79 total games in an 82-game season to set two league records, then followed that ironman performance by playing 73 the following season on a completely rebuilt knee. During the decade and a half between, he employed his acrobatic style and cat-like reflexes to backstop five Stanley Cup champions and two Canada Cup winners, cementing a reputation as the ultimate “money goalie”. He also got himself demoted to the minors for calling the hometown fans jerks, announced his retirement at the age of 26 in an attempt to force a famously hard-nosed general manager to renegotiate a long-term contract, and was suspended for an entire NHL season for conduct deemed “dishonourable and against the welfare of the league” for substance use, only to return and redeem himself as one of the game’s true greats.
“I think he’s the best goaltender in the history of the NHL.” – Wayne Gretzky.
Summary: Sergei Polunin is a breathtaking ballet talent who questions his existence and his commitment to dance just as he is about to become a legend.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 15th December 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine, United States
Director: Steven Cantor
Cast: Jade-Hale Christofi (himself), Sergei Polunin (himself)
Runtime: 85 mins
OUR DANCER REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Lovers of classical ballet and dancing have been well served recently with a number of documentaries about famous choreographers and dancers, and there is the wonderful animated film Ballerina due to hit cinemas shortly. In the meantime we have this documentary about Ukraine-born ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, a prodigiously talented dancer who was at one stage hailed as “the new Nureyev.”
This profile from director Steven Cantor (Chasing Tyson, etc) follows Sergei’s career and unfolds in largely chronological order. Dancer is not the first documentary about Polunin as he was the subject of the 2013 short 11 minute documentary The Fragile Balance, from Jem Goulding.
This documentary is an exploration of the artistic temperament, the creative process and the pressures artists feel. It follows him from a very young age, through his meteoric rise to the top and his decision to walk away from it all at the height of his fame. The film highlights the extraordinary passion and talent and the dedication it takes to rise to the top in such a demanding and competitive profession.
From the age of eight it was obvious that Polunin was a naturally talented dancer. His parents made numerous sacrifices in order to ensure that the youngster was able to fulfil his potential. They worked hard to allow the talented youngster to study at Kiev’s prestigious but expensive choreography school. At the age of 13 he auditioned for the Royal Ballet in London and was accepted. But his mother, who accompanied him to London was denied a visa, and he was largely alone.
At the age of 19 became the youngest ever principal dancer for London’s Royal Ballet, and he became ballet’s equivalent of a rock star. But he felt trapped by the adulation and his quick rise to fame, and walked away from it at the age of 22. And he soon became the bad boy of ballet, with the troubled prodigy making headlines for his rebellious behaviour and addictions to drug and alcohol. His body was also covered in tattoos, another act of rebellion. His bad boy reputation meant that no ballet company would offer him a position. He returned to Russia where he headlined a reality tv show about dance, which was a waste of his talent. Then he worked with choreographer and mentor Igor Zelensky, who briefly re-energised his passion for dance.
Polunin’s final dance was for the video Take Me To The Church, which was filmed by David Chappelle and highlights his creative genius and lithe movements. When posted on YouTube it went viral.
Cantor spent five years working on the film and has assembled an extensive a collection of archival footage, home movies and videos shot by his mother, performance footage, newspaper headlines, and candid interviews with some of his peers. This is a fairly sympathetic portrait of the troubled artist as it glosses over much of his bad behaviour and doesn’t offer up too many negative opinions.
Summary: To learn what the USA can learn from other nations, Michael Moore playfully “invades” them to see what they have to offer.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 14th April 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Michael Moore
Screenwriter: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore (himself)
Runtime: 120 mins
OUR WHERE TO INVADE NEXT REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Michael Moore’s first film in six years is another provocative, acerbic and yet somehow entertaining polemic about the ills of contemporary America. As usual he is front and centre in his film, but here he seems a lot more positive and optimistic than he has been in eartlier documentaries. It seems that Moore hasn’t changed his approach to his subject matter, his political or social views – or indeed his clothes by the look of it – since his breakthrough film Roger & Me in 1989. Moore is a provocateur whose other films include the controversial Bowling For Columbine, in which he took a scathing look at America’s gun control laws, and Fahrenheit 9/11, which tackled the war on terror.
In Where To Invade Next he looks at the discordance between American values and actions at home, and he looks at social policies concerning education, health, justice from a unique perspective. He points the finger at the failings in these key social policies in the worls’s richest and most powerful country. Armed with an American flag and a sense of self righteousness, Moore and his regular film crew visit a number of countries which have social policies that instil a sense of compassion, justice and fairness into their society. His aim is to bring some of these “radical ideas” back home to America, which is floundering under a wealth of social problems that no army can fix. His grand idea is to bring these great social policies back home to America and fix the obvious problems. As he ironically points out, it seems that the American Dream is alive and well in other countries except America.
Thus he explores a utopian Europe. He visits places like Italy, where the people seem to live, on average, four years longer than Americans, because they enjoy a genuinely happy lifestyle. Workers are paid a generous salary and have eight weeks of paid vacation per year, and there seems to be harmony between the workers and management. He visits Finland which boasts the best educated students in the world, this despite cutting back on school hours and dropping homework altogether. He visits France, where the people pay a higher tax rate than the US, but where they benefit from free education and health care and a range of other social services. He even visits a school cafeteria to check out what the average French student eats, and is surprised at what he learns, and tastes with a gourmet meal prepared by a chef.
Slovenia has free university education – even for nonresidents! Unlike the US, where the average 22 year old is heavily in debt upon completing college and starting out in the work force. And Norway’s prison system is based on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and apparently has the lowest recidivism rate in the world. Portugal apparently solved its drug crisis by legalising drugs, which resulted in a lower crime rate.
Moore makes his comparisons with the US quite potent, especially when he includes footage of the national guard moving in to quell riots in the town of Ferguson, and footage of prison guards beating on prisoners. And, as he also points out, 60% of US taxes are spent on the military rather than other vital social services. It is all sobering stuff and quite persuasive. And much of its delivered with Moore’s trademark sense of humour and curiosity. He keeps things positive and upbeat with a sort of blind optimism. And his genial humour helps audiences swallow the bitter pill more easily.
But there is also a sense that Moore is cherry picking those social policies that satisfy his own personal outlook, and he obviously has his own agenda to follow. He is often manipulative in his presentation of facts, but it is less obvious here. Moore has a scattergun approach to his material, and he tends to overload the audience with too much information, Ultimately the documentary eventually becomes a little unfocused. This is especially so when he includes women’s rights in his agenda, and when he also visits Iceland, which started the economic collapse of 2008 but which managed to jail many of the corrupt bankers – unlike America, where the government spent billions of taxpayer dollars to bailout the banks.
There is no doubting Moore’s passion for his subject here, but while Where To Invade Next may not his most authoratative or persuasive documentary it is still provocative and entertaining with some eye opening revelations.
Summary: Wide Open Sky follows the heart-warming story of an outback Australian children’s choir. Chronicling their journey from auditions to end-of-year concert, the trials of trying to run a children’s choir in a remote and disadvantaged region are revealed. Here, sport is king and music education is non-existent. Despite this, choir mistress Michelle has high expectations. She wants to teach the children contemporary, original, demanding music. It becomes clear for the children to believe in themselves, they all need someone who believes in them.
Summary: Orry-Kelly was Golden Age Hollywood’s most celebrated costume designer. Winner of three Academy Awards and responsible for the costumes of films as iconic as Some Like It Hot, Casablanca, An American in Paris, and Auntie Mame, Orry-Kelly was head of Warner Brothers costume department during the richest period of American film history.
And he was born in Kiama, New South Wales.
Acclaimed filmmaker Gillian Armstrong brings to life the tale of one of Australia’s undeservedly forgotten sons in her new documentary WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED. The story of Orry-Kelly becomes one of discovery and intrigue, as Armstrong charts the trajectory of this most unusual and talented man. He was outrageous, witty, outspoken, a drinker, and uncompromising of his sexuality at a time when Hollywood was deeply conservative. From costuming Hollywood’s most glamourous actresses, to a scandalous secret affair with one of film’s most famous and iconic actors, WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED uncovers a rollercoaster of a life sure to fascinate, shock and illuminate.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 16th July 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Screenwriter: Katherine Thomson
Cast: Louis Alexander (Young Orry), Tyler Coppin (Walter Plunkett/Jimmy Fidler/Sergeant), Lara Cox (Ginger Rogers), Jeanette Cronin (Bette Davis), Darren Gilshenan (Orry-Kelly), Sandy Gore (Hedda Hopper/Louella Parsons), Deborah Kennedy (Florence Kelly), Ted Maynard (Jack Warner), Nathaniel Middleton (The Lover), Paige Walker (Kay Francis), David E. Woodley (William Kelly)
Summary: A look inside the personal life of star Amy Winehouse. The film follows her from being discovered through to the dizzying heights of winning a Grammy Award to her tragic demise.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 2nd July 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United Kingdom
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Juliette Ashby (herself), Darcus Beese (himself), Tony Bennett (himself), Sam Beste (himself), Yasiin Bey (himself), Russell Brand (himself), Raye Cosbert (himself), Dale Davis (himself), Shomari Dilon (himself), Pete Doherty (himself), Blake Fielder-Civil (himself), Nick Gatfield (himself), Lauren Gilbert (herself), Lucian Grainge (himself), Dave Grohl (himself), Tyler James (himself), Jay Leno (himself), David Letterman (himself), Monte Lipman (himself), Phil Meynell (himself), Guy Moot (himself), Andrew Morris (himself),Salaam Remi (himself), Cristina Romete (herself), Mark Ronson (himself), Nick Shymansky (himself), Chip Somers (himself), Amy Winehouse (herself), Janis Winehouse (herself), Mitch Winehouse (himself), Blake Wood (himself)
Runtime: 128 mins
OUR AMY REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Not being a fan of Amy Winehouse’s I wasn’t sure what to expect from the documentary Amy. The film had received rave reviews from right around but aside from knowing one of two of her big hits (namely Rehab) I actually didn’t know that much about her. Therefore the fact that this docco actually had me feeling somewhat emotional times really just goes to show how inside the life of his tragic star that director Asif Kapadia really goes… he doesn’t leave one single stone unturned.
Kapadia announced himself as a seriously gifted documentary maker when he released Senna in 2010. The docco went so far into Senna’s life that even those film critics and fans who despised and knew nothing about Formula One racing were listing the film as a film that you had to see. Kapadia does the same here with Winehouse. He doesn’t sugar coat anything and instead shows the tragic life of a girl who was given an amazing vocal talent but probably would have much better off and happier if she reached the level of stardom that she did.
One of the best things about Amy is just how watchable Kapadia has made the film. Yes it runs for 128 minutes (some would argue overly long for a documentary) but so gripping is the story being told that you never once start to feel bored and start to think what coffee you might order after the credits roll. Kapadia allows Amy to start off like any music documentary chronicling a young star’s life would. There are the customary shots of her mucking around with her friends, singing at clubs in front of small crowds, but Kapadia also allows the audience to see more than that as he clearly shows that even at the age of nine Winehouse was already deeply troubled and the rollercoaster was just starting to take off.
Like he did with Senna Kapadia breaks with normal traditional documentary filmmaking. There are virtually no talking head interviews here, instead the audience are treated to a lot of private home movies of Winehouse, her family and her friends that tell more about the star and her lifestyle than what any interview could ever do. Also making this a gripping watch is the fact that Kapadia doesn’t hold back when he is trying to tell his story. He doesn’t allow everybody in Amy Winehouse’s life come out of this smelling like roses. The audience watches as Winehouse’s life of destruction comes a lot worse with the arrival of her boyfriend (and then later husband) Blake Fielder-Civil on the scene – the film then basically points the finger as an expert eerily reveals that it was in Fielder-Civil’s best interest for his gravy train not to get sober again. Likewise Kapadia has the bravery to lump blame on Winehouse’s own father and he first reveals that Amy’s bulimia etc started when her father left the family home when she was just a child, how he was the main reason that she didn’t go into rehab when her managerial team was begging her to and how he brought film crews around and planned tours when all she wanted to do was rest and get herself well. It is a very brave documentary maker who is willing to tell a story with such brutal honesty.
Kapadia’s alternative style of filmmaking also allows for him to let the documentary move along as he showcases the events in Amy’s life that was making her write the music she was writing. As handwritten lyrics appear across the screen the audience watches the life events unfold that sparked her to write the usually dark lyrics in the first place. Just as that similar kind of thing made Teen Spirit a must read if you are a fan of Kurt Cobain, this style here makes Amy a must see for Winehouse fans. I know having seen the film set out in this way I will never listen to the track Rehab in the same way again.
There are times when you are watching Amy and it feels like you are watching car crash in slow motion. Instead of becoming a character study of one of the most successful young musicians of our generation the docco almost becomes a cautionary tale of what drugs, bulimia and super stardom can do to an ordinary person’s life. Kapadia’s brilliant style of story-making makes this the can kind of film that not only educates but washes over you with every emotion imaginable. One of the best music documentaries you will ever see.
Summary: Journey To Space is a brand new IMAX documentary that tells the history of space travel while also taking a look at the machinery and people that will carry on the future of space expedition as humanity plans to walk on Mars.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 26th March, 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Mark Krenzien
Screenwriter: Mark Krenzien
Cast: Patrick Stewart (narrator)
Runtime: 45 mins
OUR JOURNEY TO SPACE REVIEWS & RATINGS:
For most of us we fell in love with space by watching some pretty badly put together documentaries that were forced upon us in school science classrooms. Normally they contained dull and boring voiceovers that had the potential to make you lapse into some kind of coma, while the footage was so grainy you basically had to take the narrator’s word for it that you were actually seeing a star system in outer space. Well that is a thing of the past because now comes Journey To Space, one of the best space documentaries that you are ever likely to see.
It probably sounds like a bit of cliché but Journey To Space is a ground-breaking documentary. Seeing a documentary on one of the world’s biggest screens in IMAX is always a brilliant experience but seeing outer space in this format takes the whole documentary experience to a completely different level. As the film shows some spectacularly clear footage captured over the years it really feels like you are laying down on the grass looking up into a night sky that has been magnified a million times over.
Experience documentary director Mark Krenzien has put Journey To Space together in such a way that there simply no part of the docco that will make its audience lose interest. The brief look at the history of space travel is brilliantly put together and manages to capture the highs, such as the first moon landing, and the lows, such as the Challenger disaster, equally well. Even the footage of various space shuttles being retired and taken to their final resting places becomes fascinating as the gives the audience a chance to get really close to these fascinating piece of equipment.
And if that footage isn’t engaging enough the second half of the documentary takes a further step forward as narrator Patrick Stewart steps aside for astronauts to talk about their own personal journeys into space and to talk about what equipment is currently being developed to take humans to Mars over the next decade. This is also the best format to view the currently available footage of Mars because presented here in this docco it really blows you away.
Journey To Space is the kind of documentary that has the power to even floor those people who say that doccos are boring and uninteresting. The only way to see Journey To Space is in 3D and in IMAX because the visuals are designed in such a way to blow you away as they are presented on the biggest screen possible. To be honest I probably learned more about space travel in this docco than I did in any science class, and the visuals completely blew me away. This is a docco that really shows just how powerful IMAX can be… a must see.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
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