ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival Celebrates Its Seventh Year

ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival Celebrates Its Seventh Year

ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival, a free, citywide event that promotes inclusion through visual arts, films, UP Abilities speakers and a ReelMusic concert, returns February 12 - 21, 2019 for its seventh year. The nation's most multifaceted ReelAbilities Festival in scope, the ten-day Festival showcases and leverages the unique contributions of people who live with disabilities, with the mission to foster inclusion, erase stigmas, change perceptions and create pathways to employment in the nation's most diverse city.

JFS Alexander Institute for Inclusion, in collaboration with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, has produced ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival annually since launching it here in 2013.

"The goal of this Festival is to utilize the arts to help change deep-seated social stigmas often associated with those who live with visible and invisible disabilities," said ReelAbilities Houston Chair Susan Farb Morris. Co-Chair Dee Dee Dochen added, "Truly a gift to Houston, the Festival drives 'inclusion' home through multiple experiences over ten days. With engaging speakers, music, film and visual arts, we're confident everyone will find an event that speaks to their passions."

ReelAbilities, founded in New York City in 2007 and now presented in 14 cities, is the largest festival in the country dedicated to presenting world-class films by and about people with different disabilities. The Houston Festival is considered the most expansive festival of its kind in the country, featuring a Celebration Company visual art exhibit, 13 feature and documentary films (full-length and shorts), the UP Abilities speakers event, ReelMusic Concert, and educational programs at schools and workplaces around the city. Through these events, ReelAbilities Houston reaches thousands of participants with its message of inclusion.

The Festival will kick off Tuesday, Feb. 12, 7-9 p.m., at A.D. Players at the George Theater with ReelPeople: UP Abilities, an evening showcasing three extraordinary speakers who live with disabilities. They are: Jen Bricker, an accomplished gymnast and aerial performer born without legs; Eric Weihenmayer, the first person who is blind to successfully climb Mount Everest and complete the Seven Summits; and Amanda Boxtel, who, paralyzed from the waist down, bridges human mobility with exoskeletons and bionic technology. More information and tickets are available at www.reelabilitieshouston.org/upAbilities.php.

ReelArt, a gallery exhibit at the Center for Art and Photography at Celebration Company, will open Feb. 13, 6-8 p.m., with a reception featuring the works of visiting artist Ezra Roy, a nationally recognized mixed-media artist who has Down syndrome, and more than 20 Celebration Company artists who live with varying cognitive disabilities. Operated by JFS Houston's Disability Services Program, Celebration Company is a Houston-based entrepreneurial program that supports employees' vocational goals while also providing life and social skills training to enable greater independence. The exhibit will remain open through April 19 at Celebration Company, 4131 South Braeswood.

The Film Festival gets underway Sunday, Feb. 17 with Opening Night award-winning documentary "Far From the Tree." Based on Andrew Solomon's New York Times best-selling book of the same name, the film examines the experiences of families where parents and children are profoundly different from one another in a variety of ways. Thirteen Houston-curated films will be shown through Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan St., covering themes that are equal parts compelling, eye-opening, entertaining and even mystifying. Several films will be followed by interactive panel discussions to encourage audience dialogue. All films are captioned and audiodescribed to be fully accessible. Admission and parking are free to attendees.

The Festival culminates Thursday, Feb. 21 with ReelMusic, a free, all-inclusive night of jazz, rock, and more, where a house band comprised of some of Houston's top professional musicians join artists living with disabilities on stage at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 North Main, 7-9:30 p.m. Ernie Manouse, Houston Public Media PBS television host, will emcee the evening which gives many musicians their first chance to showcase their talents in a premiere venue. ReelMusic house band members are Kelly Dean, Andrew Leinhard, David Craig and Daleton Lee.

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