Tuesday, February 05, 2019

ReelAbilities Houston 2019 Film & Arts Festival

ReelAbilities Houston 2019 Film & Arts Festival Celebrates Talents, Lives of Individuals Living with Disabilities through the Arts

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, 6:15-9 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; Erik 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

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.

Thanks to the support of lead sponsors Bristow Group and TIRR Memorial Hermann (founding partner), the film and arts events are free; UP Abilities is $18 to attend. Registration is requested via All events are open to the public.

ReelAbilities Houston is also supported by local and national foundations, corporations, individual sponsors and in-kind donors. To learn more about becoming a ReelAbilities sponsor, please contact JFS Corporate Sponsorship Manager Tynesha Brown at or 713-667-9336 ext. 209.

Tues., Feb. 12: ReelPeople: UP Abilities

A.D. Players at The George Theater, 5420 Westheimer Rd, 77056 | 7-9 p.m. | $18

Wed., Feb. 13: ReelArt

The Center for Art and Photography at Celebration Company, 4131 S. Braeswood, 77025 | 6-8 p.m. | Free

Sun.-Wed., Feb 17-20: ReelAbilities Films

Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan St, 77027 | Free admission and free parking

Feb. 17: “Far From the Tree,” 7-9 p.m.— Documentary about the experiences of families in which parents and children differ from one another in a variety of ways.

Feb. 18: “Perfectly Normal for Me,” 1-2 p.m.— Kids with physical and developmental disabilities attend a dance program.

Feb. 18: Matinee short features, 4-5:30 p.m.

“Mr. Connolly Has ALS”—A beloved high school principal continues to lead, despite rapidly losing his abilities to ALS.
“Unstuck: An OCD Kids Movie”—Children with OCD and their loved ones describe their experiences.
“Torture by Sound”—An exploration of Misophonia, a disorder where everyday sounds causes immense pain and agitation.

Feb. 18: “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” 7-9 p.m.— Basketball phenom Chamique Holdsclaw shares her struggle with mental illness.

Feb. 19: Matinee short features, 4-5:30 p.m.

“Leo & Carol”—Leo, a ‘vertically challenged’ comedian, is about to marry Carol, a 5’5” tall teacher.
“Lethe”—A young amnesiac woman pieces together fragmented memories while running from pursuers.
“Just Go!”—Just, a double amputee, chases the thieves who stole his crush’s purse.

Feb. 19: “By Stanley, For Stanley,” 7-9 p.m.— Both born without arms dozens of years apart, Stanislaw becomes an important mentor to young Stas.

Feb. 20: “The Rider,” 4-5:30 p.m.— A young cowboy is injured in a tragic riding incident and must undertake a search for a new sense of identity.

Feb. 20: “Deej,” 7-9 p.m.—A high school senior on the autism spectrum navigates the college admission process.

Thurs., Feb. 21: ReelMusic

White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main Street, 77009 | Doors open 6:30 p.m.; Concert 7–9:30 p.m. | Cash bar and complimentary lite bites | Free admission



ReelAbilities is the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting inclusion for people with disabilities through the arts. The mission of ReelAbilities is to utilize the arts as a vehicle to both educate and change perceptions about individuals living with disabilities. Launched in New York in 2007, Houston is one of 14 cities expanding the festival throughout the country. JFS Alexander Institute for Inclusion, founded by Joan and Stanford Alexander and a division of JFS Houston’s Disability Services, is the festival’s host organizer. The Alexander Institute seeks to foster a community that includes all individuals by eliminating the stigma associated with disabilities. Lead support is provided by Bristow Group and TIRR Memorial Hermann (Founding Partner). The Festival is produced in collaboration with The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and over 50 community organizations provide additional support as collaborating partners.


Founded at Jewish Family Service through the generosity of Joan and Stanford Alexander in 2007, the JFS Alexander Institute for Inclusion works to foster a community that includes all individuals, creates and sustains new and existing disability services and strives to eliminate the stigma associated with disabilities through educational programming, collaboration and advocacy. ReelAbilities Houston is its signature city wide event, but programs are offered throughout the year to bring workshops to corporations on Disability Etiquette and practical support for hiring employees with disabilities. More information at


Operated by JFS Houston’s Disability Services Program, Celebration Company is a Houston-based entrepreneurial program composed of more than 20 adult artists living with disabilities who create art and photography which are displayed in a retail gallery devoted to the art and creations of artists with disabilities. With a strong belief in self-determination, Celebration Company uses the community around us to support the employee’s vocational goals while also providing life and social skills training to enable greater independence. For more information or to view products or art created at Celebration Company, visit


UP Abilities is an evening with three extraordinary speakers with disabilities who share their personal journeys. The evening includes opportunities for the audience to also visit with the speakers in smaller groups. UP Abilities is a partnership with the UP Experience, which curates and designs custom events providing world-class speakers so that audiences can be educated and inspired by exceptional stories and ideas. For more information visit

(This post is a release from ReelAbilities Houston)

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