Disability issues on the silver screen to sensitise masses


New Delhi : Some were in wheel-chairs and some on crutches. Some used sign language and others hummed a conspicuous drone. And they shrieked with delight as they watched a film on disability – rejoicing at their struggle finally getting importance on the big screen.

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Over a hundred physically and mentally challenged people gathered at the Siri Fort Auditorium here Wednesday for the inauguration of the WeCare Film Festival that will showcase 29 documentaries on disability issues over four days till Feb 7.

As the inaugural film “Impossible”, an entry from Manipur depicting the struggle of a man suffering from cerebral palsy, was played on the big screen, thunderous applause could be heard.

Over a hundred students from schools and NGOs working with people with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and physical disabilities had gathered.

“The children feel encouraged and it strengthens their determination when they see someone like them on the big screen. They understand everything …they are rather smart,” said Asha, a teacher of Sehen School, Katwaria Sarai, as she ushered around 50 students with various disabilities from the auditorium.

In addition, students who specially made the films for the festival, from institutions like the Indian Institution for Mass Communication and Asian Academy of Film and Television (AAFT) also attended the event.

Gulzar Saifi, who plays the lead in the Oscar nominated documentary “Final Inch” based on his struggle in life as a polio victim, was also present at the event.

Saifi told IANS: “I am happy to be here. People now know me because the film I worked in reached the Oscars. But more than fame, I am happy that I can spread the message that every disabled person can make a difference in society and contribute.”

“Every person, mentally or physically challenged, faces great difficulty. But thinkers are few. I thought, about my physical form but not as a restriction – people who are guardians of people with disability must ensure they don’t feel disabled – that’s how my family did it and I am thankful to them for that,” Saifi added.

Bollywood actress and activist Nafisa Ali inaugurated the event.

“Change is coming around – even the Delhi government has brought in a fleet of new buses that can accommodate wheel-chairs. In our country when political will exists only then will obstacles for disability be removed,” said Ali, who is also chairperson Children’s Film Society.

The WeCare festival, organised by National Trust and Brotherhood, provides a platform for disability related films in its sixth edition this year. It is being held in collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) as part of its yearlong celebration campaign to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is also being supported by Oxfam India and AAFT.

UNIC director Shalini Diwan said: “The challenge is drawing attention, mainstreaming. I’d love to watch such films on television; they are any day more informative and entertaining than the trash we get to see nowadays.”

“The festival will play an important role in sensitising students of schools, colleges and other educational institutions on various issues of disability. Officials from various government institutions and corporate sector will attend the festival. After Delhi, the festival will travel to other cities like Chandigarh and Bangalore in coming months,” said B.B. Nagpal, the festival director.