digital-disability

Disability in Movies

Outside Centre: Disability Perspectives
"Disability everywhere in everything at all times"

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To coincide with the European Year of the Disabled, the bfi is proud to produce its first publication focusing on holdings related to the area of disability representation in cinema.

The fruits of this research can be found between these pages - an eclectic collection of world cinema interspersed with specially commissioned essays by the writer Paul Darke and extensive bibliographies and subject indexes.

We hope that the publication will encourage the use of this material within specially constructed film seasons, education courses or academic research related to this largely unexplored area of cinema.

Karen Alexander

March 2003

1. Introduction

This Catalogue is aimed at film and TV programmers and exhibitors as well as study course leaders and researchers. Programme-makers too will find archive material featuring disability to research, purchase or screen. The Catalogue showcases the wide range of material that the bfi holds which falls within the broad category of' disability'.

The bfi has literally thousands of items: from recent television programmes to 100 year-old films lasting no more than a few seconds.

In addition, the Catalogue serves as an introduction to the whole theme of disability and its representation on film and television. It contains a number of short essays exploring possible definitions of disability and the ways in which it  can be depicted. Disability and film may well be an area

of exhibition and research new to many readers of bfi catalogues, and we also hope that this Catalogue provides fresh stimulus to those who already have some familiarity with the subject.

Many people often claim that there is little available on the subject but, as this Catalogue proves, there is a huge storehouse awaiting the researcher - and the Catalogue can cover only a portion of the bfi's holdings.

The essays offer new perspectives on disability imagery: perspectives that go beyond narrow politically correct assumptions of what is a positive or negative representation of disability. The aim is to stimulate and inform the  film/TV/ disability professional or researcher that

disability is an exciting and culturally diverse element at the heart of moving image culture throughout its history. We hope that the Catalogue will inspire you to think of disability in the media as readily as you consider gay and lesbian cinema, black cinema or the cinema of women. The range of disability material available offers extensive creative potential.

This Catalogue contains only a fraction of what the bfi holds on film, video and DVD. It of course represents an even smaller amount of the complete range of what has been made and what is available. The bfi is constantly acquiring material on disability and is searching for more. Its latest acquisitions, for example, include films and videos from the London Disability Arts Forum's biennial Lifting The Lid Disability Film Festival.

The language used in this Catalogue often reflects the historical material identified in it, and is rooted in old attitudes. As some of the titles contain offensive language it has been left in and, as in the  Index, labelled  as such. It is important to note  the terminology  used in  relation to the material is not  that of the writer, the bfi or  disabled people. It has only been repeated due to the nature of much of the material.

 

Dr Paul Darke