The Martha’s Vineyard Disability Film Festival came about through an enthusiastic synchronicity that led to bringing a shared dream to life. Working with the special education programs at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Jenna Robichau, education director of the MVFF, connected with Beth Wike from the Island Disability Coalition and Kathi Hackett from Community Services. Wike and Hackett shared their dream of a film festival celebrating the disability community, who often can’t participate in Vineyard events because they are not accessible.
Robichau thought, Wait a minute, why don’t we figure out how to make the drive-in more accessible, and make that dream a reality?
“This community is so open to having other people come in and learn and be a part of their world,” Robichau said. “Very quickly, as soon as we started talking to one organization, another was calling. Suddenly, it became this snowball effect.” The result is that the MVFF and the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard are teaming up with the Island Disability Coalition, Camp Jabberwocky, the Island Autism Group, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, and the Vineyard Independence Partnership to host the very first Martha’s Vineyard Disability Film Festival at the MVFF drive-in at the YMCA.
The film selection process was a group effort too. On Thursday, August 26, at 7 pm, the festival kicks off with a live music set by Island band the Black Eyed Susans, followed by an 8 pm screening of “The Reason I Jump,” a documentary based on the bestselling book by Naoki Higashida that explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people.
On Friday, August 27, disability rights advocate and film subject Judy Heumann and disability advocate and filmmaker Jim LeBrecht will lead a community conversation at 7 pm, followed by an 8 pm screening of “Crip Camp.” This Oscar-nominated documentary is about how a group of people with disabilities became empowered by freedom of self-expression at a Catskills summer camp in the 1970s, and then went on to join the nascent national disability rights movement.
On Saturday, August 28, the original high school musical film “Best Summer Camp Ever” at 8 pm will be preceded by a live performance from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Voyager and Navigator students, and by live music from the Dock Dance Band.
Throughout the festival, music videos created by Camp Jabberwocky campers will also be screened before the feature films.
“It really has become this wonderful team effort,” says Robichau. “What I’m finding is that the more you bring organizations, the more incredible things can get done. And it’s amazing what can come out of it.”
The entire festival is facilitated by volunteers from the organizations and their advocates and people from their support systems.
“It’s really inspiring to have such a large community want to be a part of this,” Robichau says. “And they want the Island to know that they’re here and to come celebrate with them. It’s not an exclusive only-for-people-with-disabilities event — it’s for everyone. It’s about celebrating that community and inviting all the Islanders to be a part of it.”
For tickets and further information, visit driveinmv.com/disabilityfest.