Promotional poster for My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown

Fun Fact Friday presents: Daniel Day-Lewis, “My Left Foot”, And A Trailblazing Marketing Campaign

This week’s Fun Fact:

While Daniel Day-Lewis may be more recently known for his Academy Award-winning roles in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, (2007) his first Academy Award was earned with his performance in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989). Day-Lewis portrayed Brown (a writer and artist with cerebral palsy) as an adult. One intriguing aspect of this film is how it was marketed for people with disabilities. For instance, EIN SOF Communications, Inc. employed a “direct mail campaign” that focused on releasing material that encouraged people to see the film. This included “reviews by Disability Studies scholars” and “a ton of feature stories that brought the film vastly more media attention than it would have otherwise received” (Riley II 78). EIN SOF was also able to persuade Miramax to “[pull] the film from exhibitors if their theatre was not wheelchair accessible,” after hearing from disability rights groups following their examination of local venues (“Miramax”). Today, EIN SOF is described as a “leading disability strategic marketing, accessible events and employment strategies woman-owned small business” (“Team”).

Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Works Cited

“Miramax – My Left Foot.” einsofcommunications, Accessed 21 June 2017.

Riley II, Charles A. Disability and Business: Best Practices and Strategies For Inclusion.

Hanover: University Press of New England, 2006.

“Team.” einsofcommunications, www.

Accessed 21 June 2017.


Kartemquin partners with ReelAbilities Chicago to offer ReeLabs

Are you a Chicago-area independent filmmaker who has a disability, or who is making a film about disability or inclusion?

Kartemquin has partnered with ReelAbilities Chicago, the largest film festival in the United States dedicated to sharing the human experience of disability through art and film, to offer ReeLabs––an exclusive critique and discussion of works-in-progress by up to six eligible local filmmakers.

The intimate feedback session is open for incomplete projects at any stage of production, and will take place on Tuesday, October 3rd 2017.

Please complete the ReeLabs submission form for consideration into the program.

Have questions or comments? Contact Matt Lauterbach, ReelAbilities Chicago Co-Director at

The KTQ Labs program is a free monthly service at which filmmakers present their demos and rough cuts to the Kartemquin community in return for constructive critique. The program has helped improve over 100 projects in the past decade, including some of the best Midwest-made documentaries in recent years, such as What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Louder Than A Bomb, Andrew Bird: Fever Year, Quest, and many more.

The 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival is coming to Chicago October 4-8! Visit the festival’s official website here.

Follow ReelAbilities Chicago on Twitter.
Like ReelAbilities Chicago on Facebook.

Meet The Team

Meet The Team – Carolee Stanmar, Planning Committee Member

Meet The TeamI’m a techie and trekkie. I love technology and Star Trek (the prime universe not the JJ Abrams universe). I also love most forms of science fiction ( horror is not science fiction). As a child of the eighties, I have a fondness for watching movies like The Princess Bride, Big, and the original Ghostbusters. Thank goodness for Netflix, Hulu, and Chromecast!

As an urban hermit, I prefer watching movies at home rather than going to the movie theater. The only exception of course is when I’m watching the latest sci-fi blockbuster.

I love living in Chicago because in the Spring and Summer I can get my fill of pop culture conventions. Through the conventions, I have met a cornucopia of celebrities from Supergirl to Back To The Future and others.

When I’m not watching movies, I’m a volunteer for Illinois Spina Bifida Association.

– Carolee Stanmar, Planning Committee Member

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Andrew Weiler

Meet The Team – Andrew Weiler, Planning Committee Member


Andrew WeilerAfter graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Film and Digital Media I was accepted into Kartemquin Films’ internship program in Chicago. My transition to the midwest began in Fall 2016 and has opened up a world of opportunity for storytelling. Storytelling is at the core of community. It illuminates our commonalities and can spark collective action.

Chicago has demonstrated to me that through community action most social, political, or cultural issues can be addressed. Hence, following my internship at Kartemquin I pursued opportunities to tell stories as a means to creating empathy and progressive change. First, I independently produced a short documentary about former President of the United States Barack Obama’s farewell address titled “Liberty Farewell”. Secondly, I joined the ReelAbilities Film Festival planning committee as a marketing and social media coordinator.

Both opportunities have absorbed me into communities which have embraced me for who I am. I will continue to make documentaries and support ReelAbilities because I feel apart of something communal and which inspires me to grow personally, professionally, and creatively.

– Andrew Weiler, Planning Committee Meeting

WATCH: “Liberty Farewell” (World Premiere) Friday April 28, 2017 at 12AM CST via facebook live by following @libertyfarewell (Facebook and Twitter )


RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at



Chicago Joins International I Can’t Keep Quiet Movement Celebrating Empowerment, Unique Identities, Engagement & Voice with Community Chorus


The first performance was in Washington, DC at The Women’s March on January 21, 2017.  The choir rehearsed virtually and sang for unsuspecting strangers with flash mob performance of an a cappella version of the song. Since then, groups have performed various versions of the song all over the world. If you feel the need to use your voice for a cause close to your own heart, this song is for you. If you would like to sing for someone who doesn’t have a voice, this song is for you. If you just want to sing, join us.


Our chorus is comprised of people of all ages, from all walks of life, all faiths, and all backgrounds. Senior citizens, women, children, teens and men are all welcome. You do not need singing experience to join us.  If you are a professional singer, an amateur vocalist or new to singing, join us. If you can feel music, join us.

We will stand up against violence in Chicago and globally. We will sing for equality, respect, civil discourse, self-empowerment and integrity-driven conflict resolution and discourse in Illinois. We’ll sing to celebrate each other.


We will rehearse this song and a few others for one week and perform as a large group together downtown Chicago on May 13. Attend a minimum of one-two rehearsals if you cannot attend every one. The most important rehearsals to attend are May 10 and May 11.


For persons who are hospitalized, unable to travel or have physical limitations, we invite you to sing along with us via your iPads, mobile phones and laptops. On May 10 and May 11 we will live stream rehearsals to a closed group via Google Hang Out or Periscope. Details will be announced the first week of May.

Kindly download the Periscope App and set up Google Hang Out in preparation now. On May 13, we will also live stream the performance to ensure everyone is included and singing together at the same time.


Print the lyrics, watch the video and practice the song with friends, family, colleagues, caregivers, and senior citizens ahead of rehearsals. People are practicing now all across our city.


Follow the Women’s March on Chicago Facebook Page (The FB group with 45,000+ members) for ongoing updates.


Both the rehearsal and performance location are wheel chair accessible. Preston Bradley Center is located two blocks east of the CTA Red Line El at Lawrence. Kindly check for handicap access and safe routes for transportation. Street parking is available in Uptown, as well.


May 8 7-9:00p

May 9 7-9:00p

May 10 7-9:00p

May 11 7-9:00p

May 12 7-8:30p


Preston Bradley Center


941 West Lawrence Avenue

Uptown Neighborhood in Chicago

(Located at the intersection of Sheridan Road & Lawrence Avenue 2 blocks east of the El)


Saturday, May 13



Downtown Chicago – To Be Announced


Follow the Women’s March on Chicago Facebook page – the group with 45,000+ members.


Contact producer Kimberly Soenen at

Rehearse this song in the weeks ahead. Here we go. Together Together.



Justin Cooper

Meet The Team – Justin Cooper, Planning Committee Member

Justin CooperI am a black artist, filmmaker, and disability advocate. Five years ago, the lack of representation of people with disabilities in media motivated me to work on my own documentary film called The Wheelchair Chronicles. Through that journey, I’ve met so many artists and filmmakers with disabilities who felt the same way I did about the lack of representation and were telling their own stories, and were coming up with their own ideas on what a film should be like.

That five-year journey shaped me as the person that I am today and has shaped the way I see visual media. It’s important for people with disabilities to share their stories through visual media with the world because often times our voices aren’t heard. Whether we’re in front of the camera or behind the scenes, our voices demand to heard.

I am pleased to be working with the ReelAbilities Film Festival and I am thrilled to be working with such talented men and women during the planning process.

– Justin Cooper, Planning Committee Member

Justin Cooper earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Media Studies from DePaul University in 2013. Justin is currently a member of Access Living (a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives), a member of Access Living’s Young Professionals Council, and is a member of 3Arts (an organization that supports artists of color, women artists, and artists with disabilities).

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Coming-Home Still

Fun Fact Friday presents: “Coming Home” (1978), a film using cinematography to empower disabled veterans.

Fun Fact Friday brings you, our audience, facts and information sparking discussions related to “inclusion” as it intersects with disability, culture, and society.

This Weeks’ Fact:
In Hal Ashby’s Coming Home (1978), there are many early sequences taking place at a V.A. Hospital, where physically disabled Vietnam veterans are interacting with each other and taking part in sports related activities, such as basketball and football throwing. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler created a camera dolly that positioned the camera at the same level as the veterans, avoiding high camera angles used in past films to suggest a sense of vulnerability and powerlessness with a character (Norden 267-68).

Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member

Watch the trailer and pay close attention to the camera angles used to portray Luke Martin (Jon Voight), a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran.

Disclaimer: Brief nudity. This film is rated R. 

Works Cited: Norden, Martin F. The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies.

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Meet The Team

Meet The Team – Jonathan Bartholomy

Meet The Team

I have connected to films for as long as I can remember. The first film I recall viewing in a theater was Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1989), watching it with a cousin. When I saw Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Bear (1988) with my father, I was somewhat traumatized by the growling and roaring of the adult male bear. I remember watching Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992) (my first PG-13 film!) and a mother scurried her child out of the theater after Penguin bit a man’s nose.

I wanted to be Peter Venkman from Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984) and have my own proton pack. Watching the initial Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films caused my interest in Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do. Zemeckis’ Contact (1997) made me think about the similar searches in life that can occur on seemingly different paths. Whether it was watching George Cukor’s My Fair Lady (1964) with my mother and enjoying the singing and costumes, or being introduced to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) by my father and contemplating free will, control, and society, I came to understand that films can be more than “just movies.”

As I became more interested in the field of Disability Studies years later as an undergraduate student, I realized how powerful films are in shaping the way people think about disability. Various stereotypes connected to disability have been used over the years time and again in mainstream films. I want to continue conversations surrounding disability and film and engage with different perspectives as more people with disabilities become involved in the ongoing process.

– Jonathan Bartholomy, Planning Committee Member

Jonathan Bartholomy is a 2016 graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) master’s degree program in Disability and Human Development. His main interests include Cultural Studies, Film Studies, and Disability Studies. He enjoys examining and analyzing the construction of disability in film/television and how this impacts society’s understanding of disability.

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Movie Still

Fun Fact Friday presents: “Freaks” (1932), the film that shook the studio…executives!

Fun Fact Friday brings you, our audience, facts and information sparking discussions related to “inclusion” as it intersects with disability, culture, and society.

Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) follows traveling circus sideshow performers and their interactions with others behind the curtain. The film focuses on Hans, (Harry Earles) a little person who loves a nondisabled trapeze artist named Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). His efforts to woo her are met with laughter and mockery behind his back, especially by Cleopatra and her lover Hercules, (Henry Victor) the strongman of the company. Once Cleopatra learns that Hans will inherit a fortune, she and Hercules hatch a plan to have her marry Hans and poison him. When the other “freaks” of the company learn about this plan to murder one of their own, they exact revenge on those responsible. Watch the opening scene…


From behind the scenes of Freaks survives a story involving author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was working on a script for MGM at the time. One day during lunch, Fitzgerald saw conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton at the commissary and became sick after realizing that both understood the menu even though only one of them was reading it. Studio executives and crew members also complained about having to look at the disabled performers at the commissary. These issues led to an “off-limits” policy, effectively segregating disabled performers from the commissary. This agreement was reached by Irving Thalberg who was the Vice-President in charge of Production.

Movie Still

Olga Baclanova and Harry Earles

Reaction by Jonathan Bartholomy 
Tod Browning’s Freaks is a fascinating film, to say the least. 85 years after its initial release, it has survived, continuing to attract audiences and spark discussions. For its time, Freaks was something entirely different that audiences were not prepared to see. While Lon Chaney, the “Man of a Thousand Faces,” was known for roles that included disabled characters, moviegoers understood that what they saw on screen from him was not “real.” (Norden 74). Chaney was known for his use of prosthetics and other devices for his roles. Freaks goes beyond this, having people with disabilities on the screen playing various roles. The reaction to Freaks when it was first shown in theaters can help indicate how people with disabilities were perceived at this point in time in U.S. culture. It was released during a period where the idea of people with disabilities as “freaks” was fading fast, replaced by a medicalized view of disability that emerged in the late 19th century and continues to this day. Through modernization, viewing different bodies as something extraordinary or captivating for audiences fell out of favor (Garland-Thomson 11). The medicalization of disability “casts human variation as deviance from the norm, as pathological condition, as deficit, and significantly, as an individual burden and personal tragedy” (Linton 11). With such a shift at that time, the images people saw on the screen were met with revulsion. People with disabilities were pitied and withheld from public view, with focus placed on eliminating disability through cure, rehabilitation, public policy, or death. Thankfully, further cultural shifts in later years brought about reevaluations of the film.

When I first saw Freaks “back in the day,” I had never seen anything like it. As a person with a disability, I was attracted to it and repulsed by it. On the one hand, having grown up with other kids with disabilities in elementary school, I connected to its sense of community and understanding. On the other hand, I was disturbed by how quickly the “freaks” turn to revenge, thinking about how this may have impacted how people saw other people with disabilities. As time moved on, I saw more and more that connected with my interests in film and disability, examining everything from historical factors to shot selections and camera angles. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the film.

A number of years ago, I wondered if anybody would take on the idea of remaking Freaks. I briefly entertained the idea (in my imagination, of course) of a studio handing over the reins to someone like Rob Zombie (I believe this was during the time that Zombie had just finished one of his Halloween remakes, so I figured he might have enough clout to actually do something like that). Of course, beyond “the imagining,” I knew that this would not or should not take place. Freaks is better off being left alone. American Horror Story: Freak Show is the most similar program in comparison to the film that I can remember. Still, while AHS showed a surprising level of sensitivity that I didn’t expect, I still found it problematic in reinforcing old ideas about disability.

Freaks makes me think about the efforts towards altering the perceptions of people with disabilities through representation and how things are slow-ly changing. I tend to be apprehensive about any new disability themed film or TV programming that comes out, feeling that I might be devastatingly disappointed. Still, I keep watching what’s on the screen.

Movie Still

Johnny Eck

Works Cited

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “’Introduction: From Wonder to Error–A Genealogy of Freak

Discourse in Modernity.” Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. Ed.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. New York: New York University Press, 1996. 1-19.

Linton, Simi. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York: New York University
Press, 1998.

Norden, Martin F. The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies.

New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1994.

Skal, David J. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. New York: W.W. Norton &

Company, 1993.


RAFF Chicago Coming October 2017

In January 2017 ReelAbilities Chicago started planning the 2017 Festival. We are excited to announce the dates will be October 4-8, 2017 and we look forward to seeing familiar and new faces!

The past few months we have been meeting and discussing our theme for this festival as well as screening films we might want to show. We have a great team of volunteers so far that have given time and skills to our planning committee. We have been meeting at Adler University and their technology has allowed us to be more inclusive to those volunteers with transportation difficulties by having them join through Google Hangouts. Technology rocks!

If you’d like to get involved please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at