ReachAbility’s fourth year of hosting the annual Blusenose-Ability Film Festival (BAFF) has more events to offer than ever, and plans to grow again next year.
BAFF features both professional and amateur films showcasing stories about or by people with disabilities. It’s the only one of its kind in Canada.
It started as something to celebrate reachAbility’s 15 years anniversary. ReachAbility wanted to find a way to bring something unique to the community they serve, and the festival has been growing every year since.
Tova Sherman, CEO and co-founder of reachAbility said the event came about when she saw there wasn’t an avenue for people from the disability arts community to have their voice heard.
“I’m like a lava flow honestly,” said Sherman. “If someone’s doing it I’ll float by, but if there’s a gap and it’s my community that deserves better, I’m going to do everything in my power to fill that gap and really disability arts is a starving area and we’re going to make sure its fed and fed well.”
Funding for the event comes from a combination of public-private partnerships and the support of the Nova Scotia Community, Culture and Heritage department.
Every event is accessible for whatever needs people may have, whether that be wheelchair accessibility or ASL interpreters. Sherman said that people shouldn’t feel worried about their accessibility needs because all are welcome.
Events are also free of charge however, to make things even more accessible.
“When you talk about equalizing the playing field,” said Sherman. “You can’t charge, not even a dollar.”
Equalizing the playing field
The goal is to “equalize the playing field for the entire community of people with disabilities” by bringing disability arts to the forefront. Sherman said that four years ago disability arts didn’t exist in Nova Scotia, but it does now that the festival is thriving.
BAFF isn’t just for people with disabilities – it’s for everyone. Sherman said they’re setting out to get a wide range of people to come to the events to challenge people’s perceived notions of what living with a disability is like.
“If the truth be told, every one of us will have had, has or will have a disability,” she said. “The idea of stigmatizing it is kind of weird. So we’re all about, ‘it’s nothing to stigmatize.’ Let’s get it out there and lets treat it with dignity; in other words, ‘it’ being us.”
One of the main focuses of stigma reduction for Sherman is that of mental illness. She calls it “the last taboo” in discussions surrounding disability.
“This is another avenue of bringing this discussion into the mainstream and getting everybody out of the closet,” she said. “We don’t want anybody in any closets, if you know what I mean.”
Plans for the future
As reachAbility nears their 20 years anniversary, Sherman said there are plans to take a new approach to the festival by “blowing it the hell up” and adding arts from across the field.
“We have the artists and frankly we have the people with disabilities,” she said. “So let’s do it man. What are we waiting for? I say let’s be a leader in Nova Scotia.”
ReachAbility will be making an announcement to what the future of BAFF looks like at their Future of Disability in Arts and Film event on Dec. 3.