– the website of an American Ability festival which originated in New York City and is spreading to many other American cities.

The hope of Anita Altman, Festival Founder:

that [these] film festival[s] will help raise the consciousness of the [communities in which they are held] about our common humanity and the value of each person, without regard to his or her ability or disability.

This is not a specifically Orthodox Christian resource; in fact, its origin is in the Jewish community of New York, NY. But I believe some of the films listed will serve the worthy purpose stated above.

I say some, because the website invites the reader to choose one of a number of cities, and as I chose Philadelphia, PA, as the city nearest to me, the first film listed did not appear to be at all morally uplifting.  And so one must be discriminating.

Reflecting on

our common humanity and the value of each person, without regard to his or her ability or disability.

I would have to say that I perceive is a certain tension in Anita Altman’s hope and the name of the Festival.  I’m noticing that the word “disability” has been taking on a certain negative connotation recently, with the “ability” receiving the emphasis, as it conveys a more positive connotation.  This is true also of the ministry Al Kafaat (Arabic for “abilities”) in the country of Lebanon, founded by an Orthodox Christian, and the ministry I work for, Friendship Community, in Lancaster County, PA, which seeks to be “impacting the world with capabilities.” 

The tension lies with the Altman’s stated hope that we come to value

each person, without regard to his or her ability or disability.

We live in a very utilitarian world; so  much emphasis is placed on productivity. Those of us who relate to persons who lack certain common abilities, know that there is a range of abilities among them, from many to none, from impressive to invisible. Those who fall in the latter category, (none or invisible) are the ones that have, in reality,  been placed in the “profoundly retarded or disabled” category, even though there is an understandable reluctance to utter those words.

Those with none, or with abilities that are mostly invisible to almost everyone who knows them, call us to not only recognize their having value and participating in our common humanity, they silently call us to love them as ourselves. Or rather, it is Jesus, coming to us through them, calling us to this.

Image from the film “Me, Too (Yo, Tambien)”

Some, of course, cruelly call such people vegetables; many others think it, but leave it unsaid, such as the doctor who recommends the abortion of an unborn child known to have disabilities.  Anita Altman’s hope, and Jesus Christ’s call, is to rise above and beyond such attitudes and to help others do the same.  Picture from the weblog Zeh Lezeh (For One Another)

In any case, enjoy the films. If it is impossible for you to get to one of these festivals, surely some of the films will be available to order online or through the companies which produce them.


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