This weekend, the BFI Southbank will host Busting the Bias, a series of screenings, talks and presentations showcasing Disabled practitioners’ work. The programme aims to create ongoing discourse for improved access for Disabled talent to work in the screen industries, and advocate for authentic on-screen representation and leadership off-screen. All screenings will be presented with subtitles for the D/deaf and people experiencing hearing loss.
Love, directed by Jane Ashmore and starring Jules Robertson, is a great example of what can happen when the industry eschews ‘cripping up’ (where disabled parts are played by non disabled actors) and you get a sense of the lived experience the actor can bring to the role. This bittersweet film tells the story of Oscar, a complex character with unique needs but the same hopes and desires as anyone. The ‘straight’ manner in which Oscar’s lines are delivered might seem comedic to a person that does not have autism, but they are not meant as such – in this sense the film accurately conveys the way autism is often misinterpreted.
Next up is The Multi, a short film that tackles how a Black woman uses the order in her life to hide the trauma that was inflicted on her by her father during childhood. This trauma rears its head when her sister’s wedding has to relocate to her father’s house due to the pandemic. Chats over Zoom with her sister about her upcoming wedding capture the loneliness and isolation that comes from your office space being the same as your personal space. The film was made semi-remotely with a majority d/Deaf cast and crew. The standout performer is Natasha Ofili, who also wrote and produced the film.
Another film that was made remotely is Aimee Victoria, a deaf queer love story made during the height of lockdown in 2020. It poses the question that many of us have asked since March last year – how do you celebrate special occasions virtually? For this reason, the film really strikes an emotional chord. The answer for Aimee is to create a beautiful poem for her girlfriend, Victoria, which she performs for her as she stands on her balcony, like a modern-day deaf queer version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
These films are free from the stereotypes of disabled people that you often see on screen – we are to be pitied, to be feared, to be reduced to our disabilities like caricatures. We are complex people with our own flaws, desires and hopes, and these films portray us as such. As someone who is passionate about accurate representation of disabled people in film and media, Busting the Bias feels like a real game-changer.
Busting the Bias runs at BFI Southbank 3-5 December. For more info and to book tickets visit whatson.bfi.org.uk
Published 30 Nov 2021
With disabled performers being pushed further into the background, three actors speak frankly about what’s really going on.
The director of CODA discusses working with the Deaf community for her tender coming-of-age drama.
The Barbican’s programme includes a diverse selection of work that puts neurodiverse voices front and centre.