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 consciousness is a driving force behind the festival.
As the final entries roll in for FOA 2017, we thought we'd take a look at what it means to Martin personally. A lot, it turns out! Although not one of the judges, he is perhaps the keenest fan of all.
"It takes about 20 hours to watch all of the films, 40 hours in total because I watch them twice and then watch a some again," he told us. "It gives you some fantastic insight into what society is thinking. And the great thing about FOA, of course, is it's not just Australian society, it's society all around the world."
As one of the best examples of this, he cites one of FOA's 2014 films about a young African man with the extravagant name 'Blessing Fire'.
"When you listen to Blessing Fire's mum at the start of Walking Tall*, she cried and cried for days, wouldn't go out with her baby because she was ashamed. In the genuine sense of the word, he is the hero of the film. Blessing Fire is a beautiful young man. Yes, he's got a crook foot but he's a marvellous athlete."
That, for Martin, is the simple heart of every story.
"The theme is 'focus on ability' - the ability demonstrated by people who have to overcome, in some instances, where they are obviously going to end their lives early, and they do it with humour, with grace, with determination. And I think to myself, my God, look at the way these folk cope. There is no excuse - no excuse - for me ever to slack off."
"I don't think, as a person, you can fail to be impressed and inspired by taking ten minutes to see a couple of FOA films. Just get to the end of Mat ** and see what Mat has to say."
In the end, Martin sees inclusion as the ultimate goal. "We're all about inclusion. That's why it is free to enter and free to attend."
"FOA strikes a chord, it really does. It reaches out to people and touches them and that's what you need. Because if we're going to get an inclusive society, we've got to change people's attitudes."
* Witness the extraordinary Blessing Fire here http://www.focusonability.com.au/FOA/films/Walking_Tall_566.html
** Hear what Mat had to say here http://www.focusonability.com.au/FOA/films/Mat_853.html