REELAbilitiesBoston Film Festival focuses on reframing lives with disabilities

The new REELAbilitiesBoston Film Festival will open with “My Spectacular Theatre’’ with Xioa Ou.

There’s a new event in town, offering six films from around the world about people with disabilities. REELAbilitiesBoston Film Festival, presented by the long-running Boston Jewish Film Festival, premieres Thursday and runs through Feb. 8 at several local venues. Boston is the fifth city in the country to sponsor REELAbilities, a national film fest launched in New York in 2007. The event opens with “My Spectacular Theatre,’’ from China, at the Perkins School for the Blind, in Watertown. Directed by Yu Lang, “My Spectacular Theatre’’ is about a young man who finds refuge in a Beijing movie theater where all of the patrons are blind.

“REELAbilitiesBoston is a unique experience for us because the films are not necessarily Jewish in content,’’ says Jaymie Saks, BJFF managing director. “Disabilities are universal. They affect people in all communities. We want to unite the entire community around this issue through film.’’

Other features in REELAbilitiesBoston include “War Eagle, Arkansas’’ (Saturday, Capitol Theatre, Arlington), about a star pitcher (Luke Grimes) with a debilitating stutter whose chance for a college scholarship will be his ticket out of his small town.


“Shooting Beauty’’ (next Sunday, Museum of Fine Arts) is George Kachadorian’s hourlong documentary about local photographer Courtney Bent, who works with people living with cerebral palsy at a community program in Watertown.

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In “Snow Cake’’ (also next Sunday at the MFA), Sigourney Weaver plays a woman with high-functioning autism. “Warrior Champions’’ (Feb. 7, West Newton Cinema) is Brent and Craig Renaud’s documentary about four disabled Iraq war veterans who attempt to compete in the Olympics. “Anita’’ (Feb. 8, West Newton Cinema) is a Spanish film from director Marcos Carnevale that screened in the 2010 BJFF. Anita Feldman (Alejandra Manzo), a teenager with Down syndrome, helps run the small store of her mother (Norma Aleandro) in their Buenos Aires Jewish neighborhood. When a bomb rocks the area, Anita wanders the city for days and affects everyone she meets.

Films are $10 general admission, $9 for seniors, students, and members of the MFA, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and WGBH. Some films will have a question-and-answer session afterward with a guest speaker.

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Denis on Bresson

French director Claire Denis (“White Material,’’ “Beau Travail’’) will introduce Robert Bresson’s 1971 film, “Four Nights of a Dreamer’’ (“Quatre nuits d’un rêveur’’), tonight at 7 at the Harvard Film Archive. The film is part of the HFA’s ongoing series “The Complete Robert Bresson.’’ According to the HFA, Denis appears in the film as an extra walking along the Seine; at the time, she was a student of the film’s cinematographer, Pierre Lhomme. “Four Nights of a Dreamer’’ stars Isabelle Weingarten, Guillaume des Forêts, and Maurice Monnoyer in “a dreamy, beatnik Paris where a bohemian young man and a lonely young woman strike up a friendship.’’

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Talking about ‘Kevin’

Lynne Ramsay, another acclaimed woman filmmaker, figures in HFA plans. Screening there next Sunday at 7 p.m. will be her latest film, “We Need to Talk About Kevin,’’ a searing melodrama starring Tilda Swinton as the tormented mother of a demon son (Ezra Miller). It will be preceded by one of Ramsay’s early shorts, “Kill the Day’’ (1996). The showings are part of an HFA retrospective on the Scottish-born director, “Lynne Ramsay and the Senses on Cinema.’’ It opens Saturday with her acclaimed debut feature, “Ratcatcher’’ (1999), at 7 p.m., along with the short “Gasman’’ (1998). Ramsay’s second film, “Morvern Callar’’ (2002), starring Samantha Morton, screens later that evening, at 9:15, with “Small Deaths’’ (1996), her 11-minute film that won the Prix du Jury at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.

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Winning doc


The ongoing series DocYard presents “Our School’’ on Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. Shot over four years, Mona Nicoara’s film follows three Roma (sometimes known as Gypsy) children in a rural Transylvanian village who are part of a pioneering program to integrate the ethnically segregated Romanian schools. “Our School,’’ billed as “an absorbing, infuriating, and ultimately bittersweet story of tradition and progress,’’ won Best US Feature at Silverdocs, 2011.

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McElwee’s ‘March’

Another heralded documentary screens Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. at Suffolk University’s Modern Theater. Suffolk hosts the 25th anniversary celebration of Ross McElwee’s landmark critically acclaimed documentary, “Sherman’s March.’’ Following a screening, there will be a Q&A onstage with McElwee, joined by filmmaker Robb Moss, and Gerald Peary, Boston Phoenix film critic and professor of communication and journalism at Suffolk. General admission is $5; free with Suffolk ID.

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‘Moneyball’ scribe feted

The Boston Society of Film Critics will host its fifth annual awards ceremony Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Brattle. Stan Chervin, one of three writers nominated for their work on “Moneyball’’ (the others are previous Oscar winners Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian) will be guest of honor. “Moneyball’’ will be screened with a Q&A with Chervin and Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr immediately following. The event also honors members of the Boston film community cited by BSFC for their contributions in 2011. Local awardees include the Brattle Film Foundation; Ben Fowlie, Sara Archambault, and Sean Flynn, programmers of DocYard; and the Museum of Fine Arts for presenting Christian Marclay’s film installation, “The Clock.’’

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Loren King can be reached at