Films About Disability Inclusion (Ages 15+)

Films About Disability Inclusion (Ages 15+)

School Subjects: Family Studies/Home Economics - Family Diversity and Challenges, Health and Personal Development - Healthy Relationships and Sexuality, Social Studies - Contemporary Issues

Warnings: Some films include frank discussions about sexual intimacy.

The films in this curated list reflect the realities of what it means to live with a disability. What stands out most in these stories is the participants’ strength, honesty and vulnerability, which is so evident in how they speak about their lives.

There is definitely much progress still to be made in ensuring that disabled Canadians are visible, present and recognized as members of the community. The individuals in these films will most certainly teach viewers a lot about respect, perseverance and resilience. They will also make you reflect on what it truly means to live in an inclusive and diverse society.

The fear of confronting disability creates an unintentional distance between abled and disabled communities. The stories represented in this selection break down assumptions held about disabled people. Picture This is about Andrew, a disabled queer man navigating the dating world on his terms. The Artisans shows employees working at a supportive community centre where they banter, bond and thrive. A Mind of Your Own is an engaging documentary about kids speaking earnestly about their learning challenges and how much they can achieve with supportive and understanding adults. There is a particularly heartfelt moment where a boy and his grandmother work through vocabulary of escalating difficulty. It’s a triumph for this boy to recognize that he is capable of learning and being successful.

These films are made with great wisdom, humour and respect for the subjects who appear in them. Whether it’s children sharing their truths about their struggles with learning or young people discussing their hopes for a loving relationship, the essential take-away from each story is how people living with disabilities want to be seen and accepted. With this in mind, students can explore how society addresses issues of accommodation and integration. What work is still required in order for disabled people to thrive?

Expressions of what living a fulfilled life means will provoke and challenge our thinking about how we talk about disability as well as how society addresses issues of accommodation and integration.

All in all, these films show audiences the subjects at their most vulnerable during some of the most honest moments you will ever witness.

Jse-Che Lam, NFB Educator Network

  • The Brother
    2019|28 min

    Suffering from an illness causing paralysis in his body, Kais is awakened every morning by a different member of his family. Stuck in a frozen body, he dreams at night that he is the hero of his favorite manga, along with his brothers, Fehd the bodybuilder and Zaïd the ninja.

  • The Dance of Words

    Over 200,000 people in Canada are deaf. For deaf francophones, Quebec Sign Language is essential to both their identity and their connection to the deaf community. In the past decades, parents and doctors have pushed for hearing aids, cochlear implants and a mainstream education for deaf kids. Yet this thrust into the hearing world has come at a price for some deaf students, who may have trouble following classroom activities and end up being marginalized.

    The Dance of Words features young artists who have embraced their deaf identity in adulthood after spending a difficult childhood in the grey zone between hearing culture and deaf culture. These emerging artists show how they are using the arts to build a deaf culture that makes them proud. They shine a spotlight on their community while promoting and advancing deaf culture with a keen sensitivity.

  • We Regret to Inform You...
    2015|11 min

    In a check-box society that functions by dividing us into neatly-defined categories, where does someone with a strong mind and a weak body fit in? Dr. Heidi Janz - award-winning playwright, accomplished academic, and self-described ‘crip’ – has a curious problem. Despite her obvious physical limitations she is denied financial assistance from government programmes because of her “productive” mind. Following Heidi through her everyday life, with all its unique responsibilities, opportunities, and challenges, We Regret to Inform You... offers an unsentimental, and unapologetic, look at what it means to be both “disabled” and “productive”.

  • Picture This
    2017|33 min

    What does it mean to be disabled and desirable?

    In Picture This, a new documentary by Jari Osborne, we meet Andrew Gurza, a self-described “queer cripple” who has made it his mission to make sex and disability part of the public discourse.

  • SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability
    2006|1 h 11 min

    Art and activism are the starting point for a funny and intimate portrait of five surprising individuals with diverse disabilities. Packed with humour and raw energy, this film follows the gang of five from B.C. to Nova Scotia as they create and present their own images of their disabilities.

  • Acting Blind
    campus 2006 | 52 min

    This touching documentary follows a cast of blind and visually impaired actors as they prepare Dancing to Beethoven, a play about blindness. The film takes us deep into the lives of the actors. We hear stories of their shock and disbelief at first losing sight and of their struggles coping with a life without it. We hear them talk about grieving and pining for the visual world. They tell the moving story of how this play is itself a victory, a type of salvation, for each of them. By opening night, at the renowned Place des Arts in Montreal, they are a close-knit cast, well-honed and ready to step out of the wings and into the light.

  • The Artisans
    2018|51 min

    “We’re beautiful, the whole gang. We’re special,” says Jean of the 15-odd employees at The Artisan—a workshop employing people with intellectual disabilities. Jean is the self-described “handyman and best-looking” member of the group. A moving celebration of difference, The Artisans captures daily life at an organization where the workers are as courageous as they are colourful.

  • Tying Your Own Shoes
    2009|3 min

    This short animated documentary offers an intimate glimpse into the exceptional mindsets and emotional lives of four adult artists with Down Syndrome. An artful, four-way essay about ability, film explores how it feels to be a little bit unusual.

    In her follow-up to her award-winning film, John and Michael, filmmaker Shira Avni pursues a deeper understanding of esteem and disability by inviting Petra, Matthew, Daninah, and Katherine to consider their pasts, relationships and ambitions.

  • Toward Intimacy
    campus 1992 | 1 h 1 min

    This feature documentary follows a number of women with disabilities as they affirm their right to seek, develop and sustain intimate relationships with the partners of their choice. In this moving one-hour film, four disabled women from across Canada share their personal experiences, with particular emphasis on sexuality, self-esteem, stereotyping, and parenting.

  • The Tournament
    2020|22 min

    Over the course of a weekend tournament, youth sledge hockey teams from the U.S. and Canada battle for supremacy. Designed for players who have a physical challenge, the fundaments of the sport — passing, shooting, trash talking your opponents – remain the same. Director Sam Vint captures the end-to-end action as the Manitoba Sledgehammers do it all.

  • A Mind of Your Own
    1999|37 min

    It is estimated that in every Canadian classroom, there are two or three kids affected by a learning disability. Although they are generally of average or higher intelligence, these kids struggle every day to keep up with the class and to be accepted. Meet Henry, Stephanie, Matthew and Max, four incredible kids who won't let their learning differences hold them down. As they confront their disabilities and revel in unique talents like singing and chess, it becomes clear that "different" can also mean wonderful. This warm and inspirational video will encourage and boost the self-esteem of kids struggling with learning disabilities, and foster understanding in their peers.