Cinephile Report - Shameless: The Art of Disability

It's that time of year again folks. Doc Soup, the always entertaining monthly documentary series run by the folks at Hot Docs starts the countdown to next year's festival. The screening series opens with Bonnie Sherr Klein's candid, funny and unique film, Shameless: The ART of Disability, screening Wednesday October 4th at the Bloor with shows at 6:30pm and 9:30pm (The late screening is free to students with proper I.D. or $12)

Klein first made waves with her feminist exploration of the pornography; Not A Love Story, hadn't made a film in 18 years after suffering a stroke. Using the structure of her struggle to make a film regardless of her disability she introduces us to a colourful cast of the most unpretentiouslyinspiring people your likely to see on screen ever.

Comedian David Roche's sharp wit and heart are put to good use in his off-Broadway show "The Church of 80% Sincerity". Catherine Frazee an unrelenting and outspoken disability rights activist is as eloquent in her critique as in her poetry. Writer and artist Persimmon Blackbridge creates fierce mixed media portraits of those involved that speak volumes.

All this art and dialogue culminate in the KicksART Festival; an international festival of disability art organized by Geoff McMurchy, a dancer, choreographer and general renaissance man.

This film is not a mishmash of disabled pandering feel good stories and clearly rises to the top of the crop when it comes to films about disability. There are lots of laughs watching while they play Cliche Bingo with classic films that portray disabled people like Heidi, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and The Elephant Man. Even a group discussion about names for the film is hilarious, suggestions like "Piss on Pity" and "Not A Crip Story" make it clear there are no sob stories here.

The way everyone involved isn't afraid to criticize how the disabled community is perceived is definitely one of the films strengths. McMurchy, who won the Courage to Comeback award pokes fun at the idea of wanting to be bad sometimes in the face of being a "role model" while Frazee poignantly underlines the pandering nature of the award asking where exactly did he go if he's coming back.

"I could take a dump on stage and people would be like ...well isn't he courageous." jokes Roche. But in his joke lies the struggle they all face making work as physically and mental disabled artists. Their work is rich with sincerity and helps to shatter any notions of one note simplicity or hand out pandering accolades.

"Disability is a valued human condition" remarks Frazee. In a time where genetic research seeks unnatural perfection from nature, this film is a record of vibrant and intense art coming from amazingly talented artists who happen to be disabled but aren't afraid to own it.

Photo Art by Persimmon Blackbridge

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