Something for everyone


‘I don’t want to say, “There’s something for everyone” in this film festival, but I have to! Because there is,’ says Martin Wren, CEO of NOVA Employment and the person who came up with the idea of a Focus On Ability Short Film Festival.

If you’re passionate or want to learn more about the autism spectrum, Downs Syndrome or mental health, you can. If you enjoy comedy or drama, documentary or mocumentary, take your pick. Want international films from Finland, Iran, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda or Greece? Knock yourself out! Would prefer something locally made? Take your pick from the 130 entries submitted by schools around Australia and New Zealand.

This year there’s even a Lego stopgap animation by an eight-year-old boy.

‘I’ve watched them all twice,’ boasts Martin Wren. ‘There’s a hysterical comedy that’s obvious to all how much fun it was to make. It’s stuff like this that makes my job the hoot it is.’

For Martin, people with lived experience trump the rest of the stories. ‘You can’t argue it,’ he says, wanting to point people in the direction of his favourites but not being allowed to before voting ends (3 July, so get on it!) ‘Many are brave, funny and sad all at the same time.’

In a world where it seems there’s so much to disagree on, Focus On Ability is a platform for people who agree on this: people with disability should be included as a right, not as an exception. These films are a source of affirmation about the human condition.

Changing people’s attitudes is hard. We have to do it by reaching people’s hearts. These films reach many people’s hearts. Last year alone FOA had over 400,000 views. These films educate, entertain and challenge.

Whether the film’s mood is joy, anger, disappointment or determination, each has the sense that when someone handed the director/actor/writer lemons, they’ve gone, “Stuff this, I’m making lemonade.”