Why are movies only made for those who can see and hear them? Can we not make movies for the visually impaired or the hearing impaired? Also, why do we shy away from acknowledging that people with disabilities also have sexual needs?
Point of View (POV), a Mumbai-based feminist non-profit organisation, has been working with marginalised women to break the silence on various such issues. They have been organising a series of screenings of short films, feature films, documentaries and having discussions based on disability.
Conversations about relationships, intimacy and rediscovering oneself form the core of what these movies depict.
We, at the Better India, caught up with two women who are helping drive this initiative – Nidhi Goyal who heads the Sexuality and Disability Program at POV and Srinidhi Raghavan, Senior Researcher and Trainer at POV. We spoke to them about the movies that were screened, the discussions that stemmed from that and the role of POV in putting this all together.
When asked why they chose the medium of movies to put their point across, Nidhi said, “We wanted to reach women who don’t speak English, those who do not necessarily have access to research papers and the information that internet provides.
The idea of such initiatives is to extend the reach to the grassroots and start conversations. To do that we conduct offline workshops and showcase movies at all these festivals to ensure we reach more people.”
One aspect of making theatres accessible to the disabled is to address the physical accessibility. However, the kinds of disability that exist are so varying that we need to provide and find solutions to address those as well.
“Do we have captioning (for the hearing impaired) and audio descriptions (for the visually impaired)?” asks Srinidhi. In these screenings, one of the things that POV wanted to achieve was inclusiveness – a platform that recognises all kinds of disabilities.
When asked about how mainstream cinema addresses disability and sexuality, Nidhi says that with the exclusion of Margarita with a Straw, there are hardly any movies made on the topic.
“The reason we need to have these discussions is to break free of the stereotyping that happens. Cinema does not have to think about it as a disability story. It is, after all, a story of love. That mindset needs to change.”
Jennifer Brea’s Unrest was one of the movie that was screened at the festival, in which the protagonist suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disability which often either gets misdiagnosed or completely pushed under the carpet as ‘being in the mind’.
Srinidhi speaks of how powerful the movie is and says, “This is one of the rare movies where the director (Jennifer) is disabled herself and decided to turn the camera on herself and film her own journey through the life she was leading.”
“For many in the audience, it was heart-breaking and life-affirming at the same time to watch what they go through on a daily basis on screen.”
It has certainly changed the narrative of this condition (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), says Srinidhi.
While people all over recognise disabilities like hearing and visual impairment, invisible disabilities like chronic fatigue syndrome and specific sleep disorders have unique challenges in that they cannot be seen and hence become difficult to explain.
Movies and screenings of this nature will help people understand the range of such conditions.
If you wish to learn more about the work that POV does or would like to be a part of these conversations, do visit their website here.