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February 11-20, 2020

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ReelAbilities Houston 2020 Schedule of Events

  • ReelWorkplace 2020:

    In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Greater Houston Partnership hosts ReelWorkplace 2020. Join and connect with local and national business leaders and the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities over a lunchtime panel discussion that celebrates three decades of progress and opportunities surrounding access and inclusion.

  • January 22:

    Illuminating Dyslexia: A Multi-Sensory Touch to See Art Exhibit featuring oil paintings and clay reliefs by Stephanie A. Skolik, M.D., will open January 22, 2020 at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC. Touch to See expands the experience of "seeing" visual art to combine the senses of sight and touch, making the art accessible to the visually impaired community and expanding the way in which sighted individuals view the paintings.

    Joe Frank Theater of the Arts at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC
    5601 S. Braeswood Blvd.
    Houston, TX 77096

  • January 30:

    The ReelAbilities Houston Festival Preview

    This event, in partnership with Congregation Emanu El, will feature Academy Award winning actress, author and activist Marlee Matlin presenting Nobody's Perfect: Achieving Inclusion, Diversity and Access.

    Congregation Emanu El
    1500 Sunset Blvd
    Houston, TX 77005

  • February 11:

    ReelPeople: UP Abilities:

    UP Abilities - a picture of the 3 presenters: J. R. Martinez, Darrius Simmons, and Rebecca Alexander

    This event, in partnership with The UP Experience, features presentations from three extraordinary speakers that will open a window into the world of disabilities with both intimacy and urgency. Doors open at 6:15 PM; the event is from 7:00 - 9:00 PM.

    A.D. Players at the George Theater
    5420 Westheimer Rd.
    Houston, TX 77056

    • J. R. Martinez: J.R. Martinez is an Army veteran, burn survivor, actor, best-selling author and Dancing with the Stars winner. While deployed to Iraq, his Humvee hit a roadside bomb and he suffered severe burns to 34% of his body. J.R. has traveled the world speaking with troops at various bases, as well as major events spreading his message of resilience and optimism. His story may be unique, but his message is universal; change isn't bad if you are willing to adapt.
    • Darrius Simmons: At a young age, Darrius Simmons fell in love with the piano. He was born with three fingers on his right hand and one finger on his left. He was also diagnosed with a rare congenital lower-limb anomaly. At 18 months old, his legs were amputated below the knee. None of these things stopped Darrius from following his passions. From mastering music to beating physical challenges, he sets out to inspire the world, one listener at a time.
    • Rebecca Alexander: Rebecca Alexander is an author, psychotherapist, group fitness instructor, advocate, and extreme athlete who is almost completely blind and deaf. Born with a rare genetic disorder called Usher syndrome (type III), Rebecca has been simultaneously losing both her vision and hearing since she was a teenager. Day after day, challenge after challenge, Rebecca stresses how important it is to be grateful for every sound, every sight, and every sense.


  • February 13:

    J.R. Martinez
    © 2016 Mara Clawson


    The ReelArt exhibition will open February 13 at JFS Houston's Center for Art and Photography at Celebration Company, an entrepreneurial program for adults living with disabilities who create art as an expressive outlet for creativity and as a life skill. The 2020 ReelArt exhibition’s visiting artist will be Mara Clawson, a self-taught artist from Bethesda, Maryland, recipient of the VSA/Kennedy Center Emerging Yong Artists with Disabilities award. Ms. Clawson uses pastels and iPad technology to convey her perception of the world..

    A preview of the ReelArt exhibit and meet-and-greet with Clawson and other Celebration Company artists will take place from 6 - 8 pm.

    The Center for Art and Photography at Celebration Company
    4131 S Braeswood Blvd
    Houston, TX 77025

  • February 16-19:

    ReelAbilities Film Festival:

    The 2019 festival will screen 16 films beginning February 16 through February 19 at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24 (3839 Weslayan St, Houston, TX 77027). Many of the films feature an interactive event to foster dialogue between the audience, the filmmaker, parents, professionals, or persons with disabilities, and to explore the subjects depicted in the film.

    This year's films include:

    February 16:

    7:00 PM - 9:30 PM

    The Peanut Butter Falcon*
    Edwards Greenway Theater

    A modern Mark Twain style adventure story starring Zack Gottsagen, Emmy winner Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON tells the story of Zak, a young man with Down syndrome, who runs away from a residential nursing home to follow his dream of attending the professional wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck. A strange turn of events pairs him on the road with Tyler, a small time outlaw on the run, who becomes Zak's unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whiskey, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor, a kind nursing home employee charged with Zak's return, to join them on their journey.

    Disability Represented: Down syndrome
    Director: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
    Narrative | 97 minutes | United States | English

    Rating: PG-13

    February 17:

    1:00 - 2:30 PM

    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Imagine you can't read this. Imagine you are afraid to tell anyone. Imagine thinking it is all your fault. You reach fifth grade but you have yet to read a two syllable word. You can't spell your name. You are unteachable. Now imagine a teacher who changes everything. In the buildings of an abandoned military base near his home on Cape Cod, Daniel enters Mrs. Gott's fifth grade classroom. "Unteachable" is about the moment Daniel's life changes.

    Disability Represented: Dyslexia
    Director: Anthony Sherin
    Documentary | 11 min |USA | English

    Normal Isn't Real*
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Normal Isn't Real is a series of 4 mini documentary-style videos featuring successful young adults sharing their stories of coming to terms with their LD and ADHD issues. These candid portraits take the viewer into the subjects' daily lives; showcasing their talents, venting their frustrations, and employing the strategies they use to manage their challenges and utilize their strengths.

    Disability Represented: Learning disabilities, ADHD
    Director: Krys Kornmeier
    Documentary | 72 min |USA | English

    4:00 - 5:30 PM

    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Ian was born with cerebral palsy. All he wants is to make friends, although it seems impossible to achieve when discrimination and bullying keep him away from his beloved playground.  However, this young boy is determined and won't give up easily.

    Director: Cara Mortola
    Narrative | 10 min

    Shakespeare In Tokyo
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    A man with Down syndrome embarks on a solo adventure to discover Tokyo.

    Disability Represented: Down syndrome
    Director: Genevieve Clay-Smith
    Narrative | 20 min |Australia | English

    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    A young dancer struggles with her bi-cultural identity when she meets a confident young Deaf man who stirs up conflicted feelings about growing up hearing in a Deaf family.

    Disability Represented: Deafness
    Director: Erika Davis-Marsh
    Narrative | 22 min | USA |English and American Sign Language

    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    A short documentary about the prodigious talent and irrepressible spirit of a musically precocious 12 year old blind boy who plays the piano.

    Disability Represented: Blindness
    Director: Paul Szynol
    Documentary | 13 min | USA | English

    Mapping the Disability Trap
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    WWhen trying to relocate from New York, filmmaker Jason DaSilva explores how state-to-state differences in Medicaid limit freedom of movement for people with disabilities and have a deep, personal effect on DaSilva's life and family.

    Disability Represented: Multiple Sclerosis
    Director: Jason DaSilva
    Documentary | 13 min | USA | English

    7:00 - 9:00 PM

    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Born with cerebral palsy, Hale Zukas is the "grandfather" of the disability movement. A pointer attached to his helmet pilots his wheelchair and he communicates by tapping letters on a board. Berkeley is the birthplace of the disability movement, and the work started there by Hale and others in the 1970's forever changed how the world looks at disability. Every morning, he wakes up to fight for the right to live independently, with dignity, strength, and courage.

    Disability Represented: Cerebral Palsy
    Director: Brad Bailey
    Documentary | 20 min | USA | English

    The R-Word*
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    TThe R-Word is a purposeful look into the long-reaching history and lasting implications of the word retard(ed) and current attitudes and perceptions about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through the personal narrative of four sibling stories and the first-person accounts of self-advocates, we get an intimate and nuanced perspective of the challenges and triumphs of people living with an intellectual disability. The R-Word is an unflinching, heartwarming, humorous, and hopeful journey through our shared human experience.

    Disabilities Represented: Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual & Developmental Disability
    Director: Amanda Lukoff
    Documentary | 66 min | USA | English

    February 18:

    4:00 - 5:30 PM

    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Haunted by the death of a mentally ill sister, psychiatrist Kenneth Rosenberg takes on the role of filmmaker to examine a national health crisis. Bedlam follows the poignant stories of people grappling with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other chronic psychiatric conditions. Impossible to mask when untreated, their symptoms shove them into the path of police officers, ER doctors and nurses, lawyers, and prison guards. Shooting over the course of five years, Rosenberg takes us inside Los Angeles County's overwhelmed and vastly under-resourced psych ER, a nearby jail warehousing thousands of psychiatric patients, and the homes - and homeless encampments - of people suffering from severe mental illness, where silence and shame often worsen the suffering.

    Disability Represented: Mental Health
    Director: Kenneth Paul Rosenberg
    Documentary | 84 min | USA | English

    6:00 - 7:00 PM

    ReelAbilities: Reception Honoring JFS Behavioral & Mental Health Services
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Lite Bites Reception honoring work of JFS Behavioral and Mental Health Services

    Between the two films at ReelAbilities 2020 for Mental Health Day, there will be a lite reception honoring the work of JFS Behavioral and Mental Health Services. Please register for the films separately. This event will be HKA supervised, meat.

    7:00 - 9:00 PM

    Suicide: The Ripple Effect
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    At age 19, Kevin Hines attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Seventeen years later, he is on a mission to use his story to help others stay alive, as one of the key catalysts in helping end a nearly 80-year long fight to construct a suicide prevention net on the iconic San Francisco bridge.

    Disability Represented: Mental Health
    Director: Luca Fox
    Documentary | 85 min | USA, Australia | English

    February 19:

    4:00 - 5:30 PM

    Act Natural
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Act Natural is a short film that seeks to exhibit the inner battle that occurs within people with high- functioning autism as they engage in everyday conversation.

    Disability Represented: Autism
    Director: Kenneth Paul Rosenberg,
    Narrative | 3 min | USA | English

    The Drummer and the Keeper
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    An unlikely friendship develops between the bipolar drummer of a rock band and an institutionalized teen with Asperger's syndrome.

    Disability Represented: Autism, Mental Health
    Director: Nick Kelly
    Narrative | 93 min | Ireland | English

    7:00 - 9:00 PM

    The Crash Reel
    Edwards Greenway Theater**

    Snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffers a traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics. His family stands by his side as he struggles through rehab, but they object when he expresses his desire to return to his favorite sport.

    Disability Represented: Traumatic Brain Injury
    Director: Lucy Walker
    Documentary | 108 min | USA | English

  • * Host selected film

    ** Venue:

    Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24
    3839 Weslayan St.
    Houston, TX 77027

  • February 20:

    ReelMusican Eman Gilligan plays guitar on the stage of White Oak Music Hall with the house band


    A house band comprised of some of Houston's top professional musicians join artists living with disabilities on stage at White Oak Music Hall from 7:00 - 9:30 PM.

    (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
    2915 N Main St
    Houston, TX 77009


  • Ongoing: ReelEducation

    The Festival also brings free programming during the school day to Houston-area schools to communicate the message of inclusion to thousands of our city's youth through film, speakers, and discussions. To arrange for a free presentation at your school or at the theatre, contact Diversity Initiatives & Donor Relations Coordinator, Tynesha Brown at

  • Ongoing: ReelWorkplace

    ReelWorkplace seminars featuring films, speakers and etiquette workshops about inclusion are provided to local companies to benefit their hiring managers, employees and clients. To arrange for a free presentation at your workplace, contact Lynae Novominsky, Manager of Corporate and Community Relations at