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Cinema For All: Part 1

An unconscious bias exists towards the deaf, blind and disabled community among cinema enthusiasts.

At its premiere, XMILE was screened featuring SDH. By Sergio López.

How many of us have gone to the cinema to watch a film that included subtitles for audience members who were hearing impaired? Were you annoyed with the whispers of their companions trying to explain what was happening throughout the film? Further, have you ever seen a visually impaired person at the cinema? Personally, I have not.

XMILE features an audio description track, which was played during many of the screenings of the film. By Sergio López.
From accessibility to inclusion

As someone who appreciates going to the cinema and is thankful to have all five senses, I had not given much thought about the many enjoyments that our daily life allows. In particular, my ability to see colours, feel emotions or hear the musical score while watching a film. Elements that communicate a scene or enhance the film’s underlying message.

For Miguel Ángel Font Bisier, a film director, screenwriter and researcher from Valencia, inclusive cinema has opened the doors to the hearing and visually impaired community. What makes his story so unique is that Miguel Ángel has not been personally affected by a disability in any way, shape, or form.

Deafblind people were also able to join the many screenings of XMILE. By Sergio López.
Raising awareness

I admit, before meeting Miguel Ángel and learning more about what he calls his ‘life project’, I was unfamiliar with the concept of ‘inclusive cinema’. Even my understanding of ‘accessible cinema’ was limited. I thought that as long as films included an audio descriptive (AD) track or ‘closed captioning for the hearing impaired’ notice, then standards were being met. I will clarify –  standards at minimum. Here in North America, at least.

Furthermore, in North America, there is complacency in how accessibility and inclusivity in cinema should be presented. After becoming more familiar with Miguel Ángel’s approach to inclusive filmmaking and screenwriting, I have determined that most films produced in North America that claim to be ‘accessible-friendly’ do not put thought into accessibility at all. Film producers and broadcasters are either bending to political correctness and produce films that are underpinned by the plight of the disabled character or create a simple storyline for fear that the disabled audience member won’t be able to follow along.

From the very start

Miguel Ángel believes accessibility and inclusivity in cinema must be at the forefront of a project, not integrated during filming and certainly not an after-thought in post-production. However, his approach does not impact the type of stories he writes. He is not writing cinema for people with disabilities. He is writing cinema for all.

Miguel Ángel’s innovative method of film making and screenwriting demonstrates a social responsibility that I hope will be adopted in the film industry. His methodology has shined a light on the gap that exists in the way films are being made today.

And could be the mechanism to remove the unconscious bias… at least from the mind of this cinema fan 🙂

Author: Lily Kilbey

You may check my second part of the blog here.