ReelAbilities NY Disabilities Film Festival
Founded in 2007 by JCC Manhattan, ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York is the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. The weeklong festival is renowned for its wide-ranging international film selection, riveting conversations, and performances, presented annually in dozens of venues across the New York metropolitan area. Since 2010 ReelAbilities: New York expanded into a national program, presenting its one of a kind programming in cities throughout the United States.
ReelAbilities North American Program
In 2012, other cities across the US followed New York’s footsteps by hosting a ReelAbilities Film Festival, starting at Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, Reelabilities events have been held in over a dozen cities in North America. ReelAbilities events have expanded from the US to Canada and soon – Latin America, and take place in many different forms – film festivals, year round screenings and special programming that goes beyond film. Since its start, ReelAbilities has been consistently receiving an increasing number of outstanding film submissions from across the globe. The ReelAbilities North America headquarters has recently moved back to NY after being run by Living Arrangements for Developmentally Disabled (LADD), Inc. in Cincinnati since 2014.
ReelAbilities Film Festival is the largest festival in the US dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities. Initiated in NY in 2007, the festival presents award winning films by and about people with disabilities in multiple locations throughout each hosting city. Post-screening discussions and other engaging programs bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.
Film Selection Committee
Each year, ReelAbilities receives hundreds of submissions. The NY-based Film Selection Committee, comprised of individuals from diverse professional backgrounds, previews all submissions in consideration for the NY edition, after which each host city makes its own curation from that selection.
Who Are We?
Festival Founder & Director
Isaac Zablocki is the Director of Film Programs at JCC Manhattan. He attended film school at Columbia University and went on to work at Miramax Films. Previously, he produced and directed feature films and developed film educational programs for the Board of Education. Since 2004, Isaac has been developing film programs at the JCC including the Israel Film Center. Beyond ReelAbilities, he programs multiple film festivals annually, including the acclaimed Other Israel Film Festival, which focuses on Arab and minority populations in Israel.
Aaron Dobbs is the Assistant Director of The Carole Zabar Center for Film at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. In this role, Aaron produces the ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York as well as the JCC’s two other annual film festivals: Other Israel Film Festival and Israel Film Center Festival. Before the JCC, Aaron spent two decades in varying roles within and around the entertainment industry, including seven years in film development and sports production at HBO, and nine years managing venue operations, programming feature films, and producing panel conversations at the Tribeca Film Festival. Aaron started his career as an entertainment journalist producing a national radio news service for E! Entertainment , and has periodically written for websites, such as Indiewire and Gothamist. He also spent two years creating and running the visitor services division at the 9/11 Memorial.
Anita Altman chairs the ReelAbilities North America board. In her nearly three decades working at UJA Federation of New York, Anita Altman helped put disabilities on the agenda of the city’s Jewish community. Anita founded the UJA-Federation’s Task Force on People With Disabilities, and with philanthropic support, she expanded and transformed the UJA-Federation’s member agencies’ programming that serves people with disabilities and their families. Anita’s vision provided the original foundation for ReelAbilities in 2008. She hoped that a film festival might be a worthwhile vehicle for sharing the lives and aspirations of people with disabilities and simultaneously raise consciousness concerning our common humanity and the value of each person without regard to ability or disability.
Sabrina Bleich is the Program Associate for the Carole Zabar Center for Film at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan where she manages film trafficking, partnership and volunteer operations, and house management as well as general support for all film department programs including ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, Other Israel Film Festival, and the multiple elements of the Israel Film Center. Previously, Sabrina studied history at Yale University and has worked in oral history, film, and theater production.
ReelAbilities North America Coordinator, Guest Liaison
Yaara Kedem coordinates the ReelAbilities North America program from New York, working with festival producers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to present local ReelAbilities Film Festivals. Yaara graduated with a degree in film & television and special education studies from Tel Aviv University in Israel. She spent several years in post-production, program localization, and film brand development for film festivals, interactive gaming, live events, TV networks ,and children’s programs. She also worked as travel director and tour leader for a Pennsylvania-based summer camp and travel program for children and teens with special needs.