Ambassador Paula Duncan's reflections, FOA - USA - 2018It's always so exciting flying into the electrifying New York City that never sleeps. However, taking the Focus On Ability film festival to the United States, humbly established in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, fills me with hope and pride.
This festival has captivated the hearts, minds and souls of thousands of people all over the world. It's built bridges, promoted creativity and educated, as well as provided the film industry with an opportunity to discover talent and share stories about what can actually happen when we 'focus on ability'.
The most humbling experience of this year's FOA US tour, was our visit to Independent Care Systems (ICS) one of the more disadvantaged areas in New York. For me, the best part of the premiere event was the actors' joy at seeing themselves on the big screen and sharing their stories behind their films. It was truly wonderful and inspiring meeting them in person.
Then we enjoyed a full house at our screening in one of the original Warner Bros studios in New York. To promote our festival surrounded by memorabilia of some of the great icons of the film industry was simply amazing! We received such an encouraging response of industry professionals, our international sponsors and supporters from Australia.
Combining the personal with professional, it was wonderful to felt supported by my sister, Carmen Duncan's friends and industry peers, came along to support our festival and promote our film makers and their stories. Carmen was nominated three times for an Emmy Award. Now critically ill, it was so good for people close to her to witness the profound effects of our film festival.
To top it all off we were invited to Microsoft's Flagship store to screen some of the best FOA films submitted over the years. To boot, we had a personal tour. Wow! I had to pinch myself to believe we were there. So impressed were the Microsoft team that they have agreed to support our festival in perpetuity.
In Los Angeles, we screened films at the Writers Guild of America, which was filled with so many familiar faces that it felt like home. My daughter, Jess Orcsik, and brought her peers together - producers, directors, writers and actors - who are so behind the inclusion of people with disabilities in the film industry and the arts. The highlight for me was watching their reactions to the quality of the films submitted and the emotions that some of these films stirred.
The panel session after the screening of ten splendid short films was another highlight with a passionate discussion about the films and disability inclusion. I was particularly excited to meet the director of one of my favourite films of all time, 'A Beautiful Life', Deborah Calla, also known for her fight for social justice and inclusion during the Jewish disability awareness month in New York.
The entire trip filled me with pride. The focus-on-ability concept continues to affect people all over the world, enabling work opportunities within the film and TV industry and changing attitudes towards people with disability. It was so exciting to witness this festival's impact on people of all ages, genders and cultures living on the other side of the world.