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Colin salutes Oska Bright International Short Film and Digital Media Festival / 19 November 2013

still from the Oyster Project's film 'Timeslip' showing a Victorian gent on a cobbled street bearing a stick as a young woman walks away

Still from the Oyster Project's film 'Timeslip'

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Oska Bright has played an important part in my life since it launched in Brighton in 2004. Learning disability organisation Carousel's effort in showcasing short films made by and with people with learning difficulties is a spotlight on a largely hidden world. It's success is largely down to the committee of learning disabled film makers and artists who choose the films, run the festival and take screenings worldwide through their On The Road programme. 

Dao has carried a blog for Oska Bright On The Road since January 2008 and it's been a great device for following the adventures of the Oska Bright team as they've taken screenings to communities of people across the globe, encouraging others to get involved with film-making through their workshops.

After attending several sessions at Oska Bright 2013 over the past couple of days, it's very apparent how the quality, breadth and possibilities of the imagination explored in the films entered into the festival, has developed over the years. What these films do so effectively is to give a platform for a broad range of concerns in the lives of a community who remain the most invisible of all disabled communities. 

According to a 2010 survey by the charity Scope nine out of ten British people without a disability have never invited a disabled person into their home. The same report found that just two out of ten British people who identify with a disability have non-disabled friends. 

For those of us who support the importance of integration, for whatever reason, these statistics - underlining the isolation that impairment across the board brings with it - are staggering. I would hazard a guess that for people with a learning difficulty the segregation experienced is greater still - and increasingly so with the effects of the cuts hitting services for this community more than most.

For all these and more reasons the impact of giving a voice through film is a lifeline. Filled with humour, pathos, fun and beauty I am always taken aback by the selection of films chosen by Oska Bright. For me it is the quirkiness of the subject matter and the techniques employed above all else that open a window to the soul.

When Oska Bright began, most of the films entered into the festival were animation. As it developed so documentary opened up as a genre. As the work has evolved under the careful guidance of the Oska Bright Team so other areas of the arts - notably dance and music videos - have come into the frame. The storylines have become more sophisticated and developed and the expression of how discrimination impacts on the community has become more subtle.

The Oyster Projects' Timeslip had a strong message about the history of discrimination as the heroine of the film slips back into Victorian times to find herself faced by attitudes that dominated society damning any right to an education or independence at any level.

JUMPcuts film Best Interest sensitively explores the right to having a relationship. Paul makes the big mistake of letting his brother know he fancies Sam, who tells his dad, who tells his support worker… and so the plot develops, each family member and support worker believing they have what's right for Paul at heart, but not realising how their efforts conspire to break him and his girlfriend apart.

This year there was also a first of a screening of horror films. My favourite was Station 17's Die Koenigin which has some beautiful affects and stunning choreography.

Cuts to the UK Film Council have meant that Oska Bright has had to be run on a shoe-string this year. As a result four screenings had to be cut from the Festival and the amount of screenings that are subtitled, audio described and sign language interpreted limited to two screenings over one afternoon. The festival's funding has come from Arts Council, Brighton and Hove, with a small but much appreciated contribution from Creative Skillset and in-kind support from the Brighton Dome and a number of film enthusiasts.

Who knows what the future will bring? I look forward to seeing how Oska Bright - with their plans to develop other digital platforms, and other places to project - evolves.

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