With Oscar nominees “The Theory of Everything,” “Still Alice,” and “Two Days, One Night” putting the spotlight on leading characters with physical and mental challenges, a festival dedicated to films by and about people living with disabilities seems timely. The fourth ReelAbilities: Boston Disabilities Film Festival, running Feb. 19-March 2, offers 16 films screening in 14 venues across Massachusetts with filmmakers and special guests on hand for post-screening discussions.
Highlights include “Little World” (Feb. 23, 6:30 p.m., Emerson College’s Paramount Center), directed by Marcel Barrena, about 19-year-old Albert of Barcelona, a cancer survivor who’s traveled to dozens of countries in his wheelchair. The documentary follows Albert and his girlfriend as they head for a lighthouse in New Zealand. Michigan’s Richard Bernstein, the first blind state supreme court justice in the nation, will attend to talk about the film.
There are a number of other documentaries in the fest, but “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” (Feb. 24, 6 p.m., Cambridge Public Library) is director Sam Fleischner’s fictional film about Ricky, a 13-year-old boy with autism. Imaginative but painfully isolated, Ricky one afternoon escapes into the New York City subway system where he discovers things about himself and the outside world. This screening is free, with a discussion following.
The festival includes three shorts programs. Director Robin Berghaus’s 10-minute “Stumped: A Film About Will Lautzenheiser” (March 2,
7 p.m., Somerville Theatre) introduces audiences to Lautzenheiser, who became a quadrilateral amputee after a virulent infection. He received an arm transplant at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in November 2014. Lautzenheiser will make his first public appearance since the transplant when he joins Berghaus for a post-screening discussion. The evening include three other shorts.
“Here One Day” (March 1, noon, Museum of Fine Arts) is director Kathy Leichter’s revealing film about a woman coping with mental illness, complex family relationships, and the ripple effects of suicide. Leichter will attend the screening.
The festival showcases several music-themed films such as “Lost and Sound” (Feb. 25, 1 p.m., Berklee College of Music). Director Lindsey Dryden, who is partially deaf, followed music critic Nick Coleman, dancer Emily Thornton, and pianist Holly Loach for two years as they experienced music after hearing loss.
The much-acclaimed documentary “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory” chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. Director Michael Rossato-Bennett will attend this latest screening (Feb. 28, 7 p.m., Berklee College of Music).
“AKA Doc Pomus” (March 2, 2:30 p.m., MFA), directed by Peter Miller and Will Hechter, is the story of how, after being paralyzed by polio as a child, Jerome Felder reinvented himself as “Doc Pomus,” first a blues singer and then one of American popular music’s greatest songwriters, whose hits include “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment.”
For more information go to www.reelboston.org
If you’ve had enough snow drama, why not escape to Middle Earth for a day? Corey Olsen, a.k.a. “the Tolkien Professor,” will present his “Lord of the Rings” Movie Marathon — that’s all 681 minutes of extended editions of the films — on Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to midnight at the Regent Theatre in Arlington. Olsen, who’s hosted a Tolkien podcast for the past six years and is the author of “Exploring JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit,” is the president of the Mythgard Institute, an online teaching center for the study of Tolkien and other imaginative literature (www.mythgard.org). Olsen will host the event, and he says there’s more to it than screenings and discussion. “In Hobbit tradition, we will have multiple meals catered throughout the day, all featuring food inspired by Tolkien’s descriptions,” he says via e-mail. All of the food for the day is included in the $89 ticket price for the event. The menu, we’re told, includes “sausages and crispy bacon, Naz-goulash, roasted po-ta-toes with Ent-draught and Lembas bread, and — perhaps — our famous and controversial Balrog Wings!”
For more information go to www.regenttheatre.com
Focus on Flaherty
Documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty’s short film “Oidhche Sheanchais” (“A Night of Storytelling”) screens Feb. 15 as part of the Harvard Film Archive’s “The Lost Worlds of Robert Flaherty.” Then on Feb. 19, from 1:30 to 4 p.m., the HFA digs deeper into the first Irish-language “talkie” with a symposium at the HFA that includes Kate Chadbourne, teacher of Irish and Irish folklore and mythology; filmmaker Maureen Foley; and Barbara Hillers, lecturer in Irish folklore, University College Dublin. They and others will discuss Flaherty’s film within the larger context of Irish folklore and its storytelling and song traditions. Screenings of the film will precede and follow the discussion.
For more information go to hcl.harvard.edu
Loren King can be reached at email@example.com.