United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The National Film Board of Canada celebrates the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

In this curated playlist, we bring together films that promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

In addition, the Inclusion BC Foundation and the BC Self-Advocacy Foundation have partnered up with the NFB to present a retrospective of films for their 3rd annual UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities Film Festival. With simultaneous screenings in five BC cities (Victoria, Kelowna, Powell River, Dawson Creek and New Westminster) on December 3, this two-hour program of short films and conversation explores the representation of disability, from the early public-broadcast films of the 1960s up until the present day. For more information, visit.

Albert Ohayon

Having viewed over 8,000 films, Albert Ohayon is our resident collections expert. He studied film production and journalism at Concordia University in Montreal and has been working at the National Film Board since 1984.

  • 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.

  • John and Michael
    2004|10 min

    This animated short pays tribute to two men with Down syndrome who shared an intimate and profoundly loving relationship that deeply affected the filmmaker. Narrator Brian Davis brings the characters to life with great sensitivity.

  • How Does It Feel
    2011|34 min

    This short documentary is a meditation on performance, self-expression, (dis)ability, and the power of art. At age 58, Kazumi has decided to use his singing voice to channel his cerebral palsy (CP). As Kazumi draws from his exuberant, poignant and painful experiences, performer and teacher Fides Krucker guides him to embrace his inner artist. Kazumi's one-man show features songs like Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of my Tears" which take on new and unexpected meaning in this moving account of transformation through the power of song.

  • Bearing Witness: Luke Melchior
    2003|51 min

    This feature documentary is a portrait of Luke Melchior who, at 26, has lived longer than most people with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive wasting of the muscles. Knowing his life will be relatively short has made Luke feel an urgency about making a lasting contribution. He lives independently, with the help of 3 homecare workers, runs a web-based business selling outdoor gear, and chairs the board of the Disability Resource Centre in Victoria, BC, where he is a passionate advocate for the rights of the disabled.

    Bearing Witness consists of 3 films, each approximately one hour long, on people with life-threatening illnesses. The series also profiles Jocelyn Morton, who died of liver cancer at 44, and Robert Coley-Donohue, who died of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) at age 74.

  • Citizen Sam
    2006|1 h 20 min

    This feature documentary is a portrait of Sam Sullivan, a quadriplegic city councillor running for Vancouver mayor. Blending the rough and tumble of the campaign with intimate moments from Sullivan's daily life, the film is an unflinching portrait of the one-of-a-kind politician.

  • Petra's Poem
    2012|4 min

    In this short film, Toronto artist Petra Tolley, who has Down syndrome, performs a soliloquy that encapsulates her distinctive take on the social self. Drawing from her emotional experiences, she illustrates what it feels like to be “in the middle.” Employing rotoscopy, hand-drawn animation techniques and subtle stereoscopic 3D, the film captures Petra as she engages the camera with unflinching directness and dignity.

  • Toward Intimacy
    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.

  • Between the Laughter
    2006|43 min

    This feature-length documentary looks at Stephen O'Keefe, a deaf, stand-up comedian. Faced with the usual challenges that life presents - marriage, children and career - Stephen works extra hard just to be able to hear (with the aid of a cochlear implant) and communicate with those around him. While many hearing-impaired people find life isolating, Stephen embraces the spotlight and chooses to step forward and entertain people.

  • My Friends Call Me Tony
    1975|12 min

    Meet Tony Rossi, a 10-year-old boy who can only distinguish light from shadow. Despite this difficulty, he leads a very active life. The short documentary shows the ingenious ways in which Tony manages his life. This film is part of the Children of Canada series.

  • Two Sisters
    1991|10 min

    This animated short, etched directly onto tinted 70 mm film, depicts the story of two sisters: Viola, who writes novels in a dark room, and Marie, her only companion. Disfigured, Viola counts on her sister to take care of her and shelter her from the outside world. But when an unexpected stranger turns up on their front door, the sisters' quiet lives are disrupted and their routine turns to chaos.

  • All About Kids
    1964|9 min

    This vintage short doc from the sixties brings together three quaint vignettes about Canadian childhood. In Quebec Aquarium, school children see marine life at close range, while Children's Play Therapy focuses on the importance of games and handicrafts for young patients recovering at Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital. Finally, Soccer School takes us to British Columbia, where British coach Trevor Churchill is helping to spark interest in the increasingly popular sport.

  • Between the Laughter
    2006|43 min

    This feature-length documentary looks at Stephen O'Keefe, a deaf, stand-up comedian. Faced with the usual challenges that life presents - marriage, children and career - Stephen works extra hard just to be able to hear (with the aid of a cochlear implant) and communicate with those around him. While many hearing-impaired people find life isolating, Stephen embraces the spotlight and chooses to step forward and entertain people.

  • A Child Unlike Any Other
    2005|11 min

    In this short documentary about autism, director Anna Barczewska examines the complex challenge of raising autistic children. Through the voice of Jan's devoted mother and the comments of specialists, the film offers an introduction to this neurological disorder that reduces one’s ability to communicate with the outside world.

  • Acting Blind
    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.

  • I'll Find a Way
    1977|25 min

    This Oscar®-winning documentary presents Nadia, a 9-year-old girl with spina bifida. Her dream is to attend a regular school, even though she knows other kids will tease her. Wise for her young age, Nadia simply decides that she'll "find a way to deal with it." Despite having to overcome many obstacles, Nadia's got spunk and makes it clear she's not looking for sympathy. This film is part of the Children of Canada series.