Queens Y screens films focused on special needs

By Merle Exit

For the third straight year, the New York ReelAbilities Film Festival returns to the Central Queens Y to highlight recent movies that explore characters living with disabilities.

The three films playing in Forest Hills Sunday and Monday focus on the common human experience rather than on the disabilities.

“What I’d really like to get across is that these films are for everyone,” Peggy Kurtz, from the Y’s Hevisi Library, said. “Many people come because their families are touched by a specific issue. For these people, the films and discussions help to open up aspects of an issue they are already touched by.

“But many, many others come because they know that the films stand beautifully on their own as outstanding films,” she said.

This is the sixth year the festival has happened across the city’s boroughs. In Queens, moviegoers will have the chance to see three films at the Y and an additional three at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

In “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors,” which won a Special Jury Prize at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, a 13-year-old boy with autism wanders away from his Rockaway Beach home and gets caught up on the city’s subway system.

The 2013 Israeli film, “Do You Believe in Love?”, looks at an Orthodox Jewish matchmaker who uses tough love and humor to match people with special needs who want a partner. She also happens to be suffering from ALS herself, but this is a woman who makes the very most of her life.

“Gabrielle,” a Canadian film from 2013, follows the developmentally disabled title character as she joins a chorus for special needs individuals, then begins a romance with one of the other members.

“We’ve chosen films that are relevant to the needs of many families in our community, films that open up helpful discussions,” Kurtz said. “Each of these films will be followed by discussions — some with actors or other professionals, including a professional matchmaker for one of them.”

The festival plays at the Central Queens YM & YWHA, at 67-09 108 St. in Forest Hills.

All films are open to the general public, with an $8 donation requested, $5 for Y members.

Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image also screens “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” Friday, and “Gabrielle” Saturday.

The museum plans to show two other narrative films Sunday, “Little World” and “Run & Jump,” as well as the documentary “Cinemability” Saturday.

“Film is a wonderful way to raise awareness of the experience of others,” Kurtz said. “In different ways, all three of these films deal with the ways in which most people want to make as much of an independent and fully satisfying life for themselves as possible. These are powerful films about people who want the most from life, as we all do, no matter what life has thrown our way.”

If you Go

New York ReelAbilities

Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria

When: Friday, March 7 through Sunday, March 9

Where: Central Queens YM & YWHA, 67-09 108 St., Forest Hills

When: Sunday, March 9 and Monday, March 10

Cost: At Y — $8/donation, $5/donation for Y members; At museum — $12/adults, $9/seniors and students, Free/members

Website: www.reelabilities.org

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