A Truly International Film Festival

Where to start?

This year's Focus On Ability Film Festival broke all records. But it's not the records that matter so much as the increased awareness of the abilities of the actors, players, directors and makers both in front of and behind the camera.

September and October were busy for the FOA crew! We held screenings in New York, Auckland and Harare, with many, many more people watching the films online.

First stop: Auckland, New Zealand

About 90 people attended the screening at Rydges, Auckland, including the winners in the schools documentary category The Carlson School for students with cerebral palsy. Principal, Faye Philp, spoke glowingly of how the films they entered sent a positive message about both their school and students, which, in turn, enhanced the students' confidence and self-esteem.

People came from all over the north island, with representatives from Whakatane School driving four hours to watch the 16 New Zealand entries on the big screen.

Second stop: New York, USA

We screened the festival four times in as many days in New York. On the Tuesday, we were in Harlem at The Axis Project - a centre for people with physical disabilities.

'It was a highlight of the trip,' said CEO of NOVA Employment, Martin Wren, who created the festival nine years ago. 'The screenings give hope and inspiration and remind people that they are part of world effort towards inclusion, not just in Harlem.'

On Wednesday we met with media, businesses and supporters of FOA at Dolby Theatres. The interest and support from such a wide range of people was encouraging, from film critics to freelance journos writing for industry publications and representatives from Reuters and AP.

By Thursday we were at Brooklyn Independence Care Systems, whose clients mostly have high-level physical disabilities and on Friday we found ourselves in The Bronx Library with Bronx Independent Living Services. A large percentage of the audience were hearing impaired.

'Looking back the week provided was empowering for us both in terms of the reception our existing films received and in the prospect of an even better festival for our tenth anniversary in 2018.'

Last (but by no means least) stop: Harare, Zimbabwe

A few years ago, FOA was excited to feel a deep rumble of support coming from around Africa. In 2016, we took the festival to Zimbabwe. We had so much fun that we decided to go back in 2017! And the 1000 people who attended the screening event at the National Rehabilitation Centre are just as pleased as we are that we did (http://www.focusonability.com.au/FOA/FocusBlog/Zimbabwe-exuberant-about-FOA_1372/).