ReelAbilities Co-Director, Reveca Torres On What It Means To Be An Activist


RAFF Co-Director Reveca Torres

Lights, Camera, Take Action!

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a panel conversation with other women from Chicago doing great work in our communities. At one point the moderator asked each of us, “Do you consider yourself an activist?” I was at the end of the table so was the last to answer this question. The other women before me were hesitant to call themselves an activist even though their work said otherwise. I must admit I have been hesitant to call myself an activist as well. I guess I have this image of people protesting or demonstrations and I am often not physically present at events like these, not because I don’t want to but sometimes access or energy levels don’t allow me to. So maybe I feel a fraud or like I am not doing enough?

As the other woman were talking I started thinking about the work I do as founder and director of an organization serving people with disabilities and as an artist using my work for social change… yes, it can be considered a form of activism. After all, activism means to take action for social change, doesn’t it? I feel that a person that is active in their community and creating change is an activist – even if sometimes we feel we aren’t doing enough. So in that moment I decided to own the word activist and when it came my turn to answer I confidently said, YES.

In the state of our country the future of people with disabilities sometimes seems uncertain.  Many people have stepped up to take action and not allow the undoing of many years of effort and fighting for disability rights. People are speaking out and their activism does not have to look a certain way. It can mean that you are out there protesting and marching, you can write a letter to your legislators or meet with them in person, you can create some arts for social change, you can sit down and talk to someone who is different from you and commit to be an ally, others have shared their story via a video on social media, and so many other ways that people are getting involved.

I am happy to announce that our theme for ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago 2017 will be Lights, Camera, Take Action! My goal is that people come and watch fantastic films with great storylines and will leave the theater having been challenged in thought and motivated to take action in the community. Some may act by becoming involved with a local organization and others through individual acts or personal development.

I invite you to join us this October for a few days of excellent programming and as you watch a film I hope your mind is thinking “What will I do to make a positive change in my community?”

Come support ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago at STATE restaurant for a fundraiser filled with Trivia, food, and drinks!

We are selling $20 wristbands in order to raise money for RAFF. When you arrive to STATE wearing a wristband, you will be given a $10 giftcard to STATE restaurant to use at a later date.

Purchase your tickets here!!!

Fun Fact Friday presents: Susan Peters, At The Intersection of Disability And Film

This week’s Fun Fact:

While Susan Peters may not be a well-known film actor in today’s world, she seems to occupy an interesting space when considering the history of disability and film. Peters was one of the rising film stars of the 1940s, making a name for herself at MGM and receiving the Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her work in Random Harvest (1942) (Miller). On January 1, 1945, while on a hunting trip with her husband, she reached for her rifle and “it accidentally discharged, sending a bullet through her stomach to lodge in her spine,” paralyzing her from the waist down and causing her to use a wheelchair for the remainder of her life (“Actress”). At first glance, a person may think that this incident would have ended her film career entirely. However, producer Irving Cummings and his son “joined forces with the Orsatti Agency to produce a comeback film for her” (Miller). This film was John Sturges’ The Sign of the Ram, (1948) an adaptation of Margaret Ferguson’s 1945 novel of the same name. The film “offered the perfect vehicle with its tale of a wheelchair-bound poet living in a remote mansion on the British coast,” with  Peters playing a bitter character who “[manipulates] those around her to keep herself the center of attention” (Miller). When this film was presented as a part of Turner Classic Movies’ “The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film” series in 2012, curator Lawrence Carter-Long seemed to comment on the efforts by those in power and their desire to promote Peters, saying, “’It shows you what Hollywood can do if it wants to’” (“TCM’s”). The film was not a success and proved to be her last film role, but has gained a following in the years since its release (Miller). Interestingly, it has never been released on video or DVD (Miller).

– 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

“Actress Susan Peters Dies, Losing Brave 7-Year Fight.” Toledo Blade, 24 October 1952, p. 1.

jid=bQAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3847,3889046. Accessed 28 June 2017.

Miller, Frank. “The Sign of the Ram.” tcm,

month/article.html?isPreview=&id=499692|176224&name=Sign-of-the-Ram. Accessed

28 June 2017.

“TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz and Lawrence Carter-Long Introduce ‘Sign of the Ram.’” YouTube,

uploaded by Lawrence Carter-Long, 9 October 2012,

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