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Focus on Ability Blog

Disabled character or a character who has disability?

Every good character in film is written with challenges they must accommodate or overcome. Their inabilities are as important as their capabilities in order to create dynamic, engaging story arcs. The thing is, as important as these weaknesses are to the story, these characters are rarely defined by them. Superman isn't about a guy who can't handle kryptonite; Harry Potter wears glasses but his story doesn't focus on the challenges of being short sighted.

But can we say the same about characters written with a disability? Often, I'm not so sure. My Left Foot is a terrific film, but is it a story that ever escapes being about cerebral palsy? Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man plays a fascinating character whose disability is also a gift that makes him almost superhuman - but is he ever more than a study in autism?

In contrast, there are a couple of recent examples in television where disability is embedded in a character but never threatens to become their defining characteristic. Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones suffers almost universal derision and disrespect due to his dwarfism, but his identity is built on his intelligence, cunning and decency. The actions he takes are not those of a dwarf but of a good man who must navigate a Machiavellian world. Then there's Breaking Bad, where the gold star for a disabled character goes to Walt Jr, whose central role in the story is entirely conducted without ever specifically referring to his obvious cerebral palsy. His disability is no more than part of a suite of characteristics - in much the same way that his hair colour is, or the clothes he wears.

So here's a little test. This is the plot of Dance Man, one of the film entrants for the 2015 Focus On Ability Festival. A young man attempts to attract the attention of a young woman he likes by standing on his front porch and dancing. Unfortunately, he can't dance and the girl is unimpressed. Luckily, however, the young guy's brother is a dancing wiz and he teaches him to bust some fancy moves. When he next tries his mating dance on the porch, he is a master. Zing! The girl is impressed.

So ... which of these characters is a person with disability? You're right, it's impossible to say. Because it has exactly zero relevance to the story. So, if you haven't seen the film, take a guess, and then check it out using the link below.


Previous Posts

Praise For FOA17
2017 was the most successful festival in FOA's nine-year history, with a record number of overall entries, participating countries and schools involved. Last month's gala awards night lived up ...

On 6th September, 600 guests congregated at the prestigious Concourse on Sydney's North Shore to attend FOA's 2017 Gala Awards Night. They were there to walk the red carpet, to enjoy beautiful ...

Open To All
Inclusivity is the goal of FOA and nowhere is this demonstrated more effectively than in the 2017 Open Entrant sections. For some, this competition presents an opportunity to participate, offering ...

Movie time!
So here we are! You all got your entries in, right? Well, a lot of you did because the turnout for FOA 2017 has been massive! Record-breaking. Firstly, this is the most ever finalists the festival has ...

Martin's Grand Vision
The FOA Film Festival was set in motion nine years ago at the instigation of NOVA Employment's CEO of 25 years, Martin Wren, whose passion and advocacy for bringing disability into mainstream public ...

Contact Details
To speak to Ryan about your entry please email or contact him on Aus Mobile - 0414932987

Schooling Us
With the 2017 deadline fast approaching, it seems like a good time to take another look at last year's winners and, in particular, two entrants from the schools' section. Every year, scores ...

Did you know you are living in a time of revolution? And that you are one of the revolutionaries? How, you say? Well, every time you shoot some video on your phone and post it on Facebook or YouTube ...

Disabled character or a character who has disability?
Every good character in film is written with challenges they must accommodate or overcome. Their inabilities are as important as their capabilities in order to create dynamic, engaging story arcs. The ...

Last post, I mentioned the New Zealand film Silence, one of the 2016 school entrant winners. It's an excellent piece of purist cinema that has a lot going on in its 5 minutes, so let's take ...

The Wheel Chair Life
Amir Kamrani
Haryati Abu Bakar
Flipped... My Body Stopped to Let Me Remember
Touch Compass
Wood that mends the mind
Hannah King
Yes We Can
Model Farms High School - Support Unit
Barker College
Palette of Life
Woolooware High School
Cause and Effect
Barker College
Life of Brian
Warrawong High
A Man named Stanley
Barker College
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