Author Archives: showmejusticefilmfestival

Guest Blogger – Alex Hutcherson

Alexander Hutcherson is a graduate student at the University of Central Missouri in the Mass Communication department. He completed his undergraduate work May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media Production with an emphasis in Film. His dream job is to work as a content creator at Blizzard Entertainment in their marketing department and then hopes to one day complete his Ph.D. and become a college professor.

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Gender Inequality in Film

Despite the success of several female actresses there is a large difference in equality between men and women in the film industry. In a 2014 study by the New York Film Academy it was found that only thirty percent of speaking characters are women while nearly twenty percent more women are shown wearing sexually revealing clothes or partially naked on screen when compared to men (NYFA, 2014). New York Film Academy found that there is an even larger difference when looking at the ratio of men to women working on the film (as crew, writers, producers, directors) at a five to one ratio (NYFA, 2014). In 2013, the top ten highest paid actresses made less than half of what the top ten highest paid actors made (NYFA, 2014). The average age of an actor is forty-six while the average age of a female actress is thirty-four (NYFA, 2014).

women in flim

image credit: https://www.nyfa.edu/

While these statistics are a few years old, there is no doubt that there is a gender bias in the film industry. Hollywood began as a straight, white, male dominated industry and it has remained that way since. Not only are women underrepresented in film they are also sexualized. Women cannot be as old and must be more willing to show nudity on screen than men. Under-representation is only part of the story with the pay difference be enormous. Emma Stone, the highest paid actress for 2017, played a lead role in the successful 2016 film La La Land.

Unfortunately the highest paid actor of 2017, Mark Wahlberg, has made triple what Emma Stone made this year. The difference in pay is absurd and the stereotyping of women in film should be a thing of the past. Furthermore, when considering the awards that females are nominated for it becomes even more apparent that there is a gender bias. From 1975 to 2014 four female directors have been nominated (NYFA, 2014). It is mind blowing to think that after forty years of academy awards only four nominations for director were female. Considering all the advances the United States has made towards equality one would think there would be less of an inequality in film.

wonder woman

image credit: http://www.imdb.com/

Recent Success

There is still hope. Wonder Woman was released earlier this summer on June 2, 2017. With a leading female role played by Gal Gadot Wonder Woman earned an enormous $800,000,000 worldwide. If films with a lead female role such as Wonder Woman and La La Land continue to see success then hopefully the gender gap will shrink. Unfortunately it is unlikely to happen quickly and even if there are more leading female roles in the near future women face overwhelming stereotypes. The amount of nudity, age, and income difference between men and women are all stereotypes that must change before women will be considered equals within film. This is a strong parallel for reality. Women in America are still underrepresented. They face the same problems that actress face. Hopefully the world changes for the better sooner rather than later.

Reference

https://www.nyfa.edu/

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Guest Blogger – Michelle Castelli

 

Michelle Castelli is a first-year Graduate student at the University of Central Missouri pursuing a master’s degree in Mass Communication while she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. She hopes to graduate in May 2018, move back to Saint Louis, Missouri, and continue to follow her passion for design, public relations, and advertising.

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Budget Cuts on Campus

There have been a lot of discussions in the last few months about the ongoing budget cuts for higher education – colleges, universities, and community colleges for the current academic school year as we speak. This dilemma has been an ongoing discussion among faculty and staff to help develop new plans on how to have a smooth and pleasant school year, but problems can still arise when the budget cuts occur.

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“The New School Year Brings Major Education Budget Cuts to Districts” – http://www.policyinsider.org/2013/09/the-new-school-year-brings-major-education-budget-cuts-to-districts.html 

According to Rosenbaum (2017), “the state didn’t get as much revenue as expected, prompting the Republican governor to cut $68 million in core fundings… for the current budget year” (para. 2). These budget cuts have increased tuition, provided fewer jobs to faculty, staff, and students, less access to an education, and some resources for students have been removed as well. There are over 24 different states that have experienced the same problem. With the rise of this ongoing problem, some tough decisions are being made which can be an adverse outcome on some.

Many students on campus want to start organizations or work to afford school, but cannot because of the budget cuts. For example, I came across the issue of not having a job when school started. When I was looking for a job on campus, I knew that the benefits of working on campus would be easier. Working on campus would provide an easier way to commute to work, attend classes, getting school work completed, and more experience within my field. However, there were not a lot of openings on campus because of the budget cuts compared to previous years. Luckily, I was able to find a job, but still, I had more of a challenge of finding one in this particular instance because there was this issue of budget cuts on higher education.

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“Why a focus on higher education and research?” – http://www.akadanetwork.org/category/higher-education/

The bottom line of this matter is simple. Taking away opportunities from students, faculty and staff in higher education can be a challenge to someone’s future whether you realize it or not. Sometimes decisions are made based on what is better for the economy in the long run, but it’s better to think about what is beneficial for all individuals. Taking away opportunities and making it harder for students to afford an education isn’t going to make a difference. Not everyone can afford school as it is and making the task more difficult is only more detrimental to someone and their future.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think these budget cuts are a helpful thing for the world’s future economy or is it just slowing us down?

References

http://www.npr.org/2017/03/03/517073825/as-state-budget-revenues-fall-short-higher-education-faces-a-squeeze

 

Guest Blogger – Michelle Castelli

 

Michelle Castelli is a first-year Graduate student at the University of Central Missouri pursuing a master’s degree in Mass Communication while she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. She hopes to graduate in May 2018, move back to Saint Louis, Missouri, and continue to follow her passion for design, public relations, and advertising.

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Equality In The LGBTQ Community

It has taken many years for the LGBTQ community to be able to be married to their partner legally. Even though a law was passed for the LGBTQ community to be married in all 50 states legally, there have been some other factors that have taken place that the community has fought against and their discrimination.

For some states, the LGBTQ community is asked to leave or removed and even fired for what they do rather they have a child in a same-sex relationship or even denied to live somewhere. There are multiple cases where women and men have been in similar situations. Discrimination has been a big problem in the United States and even across the world. This issue has been a problem for many different types of communities, and it’s a severe issue in which some people feel it’s worth fighting for their right to be who they want to be.

7A4ABD67-5056-A936-A9598CCF77DF11D3“LGBTQ Youth Resources” at https://tchhsa.org/eng/index.cfm/mental-health/lgbtq-youth-resources/

Senators, Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, and Cory Booker, and Representatives David Cicilline and John Lewis, have gone in and brought forth the Equality Act in America. This Act protects the LGBTQ communities rights and any discrimination against them which includes, but is not limited to places to live, financial purposes, an education, various services, etc.

There are many different opinions about the LGBTQ community and their rights to be who they want and be with whom they want. Some will argue that they should be able to have the same rights as anyone else and some will argue the opposite. With experience as an Ideas and Issues Coordinator in my undergraduate career and as a continuous supporter, I try to bring forth positivity to the world as well as show people we are all one. Being accepting of all individuals no matter where they come from, who they are, or what they believe is how I think and live my life. 

These senators, representatives, and allies who support the community and including the Human Rights Campaign give the LGBTQ community the right to have such freedoms as anyone else. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) falls in line with actions taken by the LGBTQ community and for those political parties who support their cause and defend them to be who they want to be. The HRC continues to fight for the LGBTQ community and will do so by fighting for what is right.

 

HRCLogo-WithWords-1600x900“Human Rights Campaign” at https://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-statement-on-the-election-of-donald-trump-march-toward-equality-continu 

If you support the LGBTQ community or want to support the campaign, you can do so by conducting research on the topic to get started or by visiting http://www.hrc.org/ or https://www.hrc.org/blog/how-to-be-an-lgbt-ally. If you want more information on how to become an Ally on your campus at the University of Central Missouri, visit https://www.ucmo.edu/maps/LGBTQAllyGuide.cfm.

References

https://www.hrc.org/hrc-story/about-us

http://www.hrc.org/resources/why-the-equality-act

Guest Blogger – Joseph Brown

Over the last three years I have amassed approximately 300 hours of video footage while following eco-activist Rod Coronado on his campaign to end wolf hunting in the United States. I’ve used some of that footage to create a few short documentaries– including, “Operation Wolf Patrol: Wisconsin Wildlife Issues,” which will be screening at the Show Me Justice Film Festival in April of 2017, and I am also working on a larger film about Rod Coronado’s life. That film is tentatively titled, “A Strong Heart: The Rod Coronado Story.”

Joe Brown Filmming Rod Coronado

Rod Coronado has a long history in environmental activism. Some have called him a hero; some have called him an “eco-terrorist.” Either way, I have learned a lot about wildlife policy in the United States while traveling with Rod. Indeed, I have learned that the hunting lobby is extremely strong, and that in some states– particularly those states that are somewhat “out of the way,” like Wisconsin, and perhaps Michigan, there is much hatred for wildlife that we might call predators.

Joe Brown Back to Bear Bait

I’ll spare readers the details of the YouTube videos I have watched that showcase the wholesale torture of predators at the hands of hunters in places like northern Wisconsin (but believe me, there are many such videos on YouTube). What I will say, or ask, is this: when will humans, as a species, consider the “civil” rights of other species?

Perhaps the question isn’t so much about civil rights as it is about the right to exist.

It’s easy to get depressed about the state human kind’s own inability to recognize the civil rights of other humans, but what about the final frontier? What about the rights of other species?

WP Crew Moquah July 4th 452A6955

It is said that 150 – 200 non-human species go extinct every day. Some of this is due to development; some of this is due to global warming, and other environmental factors.

What is more concerning is that– despite this, we still hunt and kill animals we do not eat. In fact, we kill close to 4,500 black bears annually in Wisconsin. And– in addition, hunters regularly poach wolves while claiming that they mistakenly thought them to be, “big coyotes.”

Are we, as a species, still so depraved that we must kill, torture, and traffic other species? Are we so ignorant that we’re still afraid of the, “big bad wolf”?

I’m pulling no punches here, but this is a blog post, not a newspaper article, and my main goal isn’t necessarily the promotion of my film.

I respect the, “Show Me Justice Film Festival,” for taking on issues of social justice, and especially issues of environmental justice. It’s time we start thinking about the non-human world when we talk about justice.

Currently, I am living in the state of Wisconsin and the words of a famous Wisconsin conservationist– Aldo Leopold, seem to frequently be on my mind:

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

It’s time we open our eyes to the plight of other species. It’s time we realize that we– and the natural world around us, are not well.

It’s time we begin to realize the environment needs to be considered when we think about issues of justice.

—  Joe Brown is a documentary filmmaker and professor based at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Find out more about Joe’s current work at: www.wolfpatrolfilm.com

Guest Blogger – Martha Gorzycki

Voices From Kaw Thoo Lei, 2015  (10:45 min)
An Experimental Animated Documentary
Martha Gorzycki, Producer, Director, Animator

The Karen people of Burma believe no one hears their pleas for help as their country remains ravaged by a war that has lasted more than six decades. This film uses over 10,000 photos to animate a landscape of memory over which Voices from Kaw Thoo Lei may be heard.

3VoicesFromKawThooLei_MarthaGorzycki

The Karen name for their homeland is Kaw Lar, meaning Green Land. Due to six decades of civil wars, their land is now often referred to as, Kaw Thoo Lei, or Land Burned Black. The terrorism and genocide inflicted by the Burmese military government is still a reality today. Enduring these atrocities in Burma for so long, many Karen people I interviewed believe the world has turned its back and no one is listening to them, which is why I decided to make this film.

Their population has been reduced from 7 million to about 3.5 million, with over 130,000 Karen refugees in Thailand. Throughout the past decade, most news about Burma (Myanmar) has focused on Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi or more recently on the persecution of the Muslim group, the Rohingya. There are over 100 languages spoken in Burma with the Karen being the largest ethnic minority nation, yet over the decades, little information on the Karen’s struggle has been newsworthy.

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Animation expands visual representation for documentary; the fantastical possibilities function differently from newsreel. In this film, slow changing abstract images focus the experience on listening and engaging the imagination. This documentary records the raw memories and emotions of Karen interviewees. The story unfolds as one collective voice, like Karen culture which prioritizes family and community over individualism.

Using stop-motion techniques, over 10,000 photos animate a landscape of memory. Textural surfaces allude to physical reality and contrast with skies beyond jungle, the hopefulness of reaching a safer place. This film explores stop-motion animation as subtle cinema-art, with the hope of bringing greater awareness to the Karen’s multi-generational struggle for peace and freedom.

Guest Blogger – Noel Harris

Noel Harris is  the creative director and screenwriter behind the short narrative film Touch.

When I was asked to write this blog, I thought of the very essence of what my film is about.  We, every single day of our life, strive toward a goal.  Everything we do, from putting on our socks, to the stretching of the dollar, to being a shoulder to lean on, all of our actions are a means toward the goal of attaining and realizing our true essence.  I promise to state what I feel this essence is, but first some background on writing Touch.

TOUCH web V2 update

I grew up one of the youngest in a large family. Through my parents’ example we stood by each other and managed to make ends meet. When we were kids one of the things my parents and older sisters and brothers always did for the smaller Harris kids was scratch our back, literally – especially when tired, grumpy, sick, and especially during those times when we were worried about something.  The soft back scratch always seemed to make the worries go away.  Getting a tender back scratch, to this day, remains one of the most connective humanistic moments in my life.  It is a tradition that continues to this day in the Harris family.  When my niece Robyn was 5-6 years old and visiting the Harris homestead, she would, without a word, go get the nail clippers, hand them to me and lay on my lap.  Robyn loved the gentle back scratch of just clipped fingernails.  As I softly scratched her back she would always fall asleep.  My sister would jokingly get frustrated when she wanted to leave and little Robyn was out solid.

One day, I was tasked with scouting a run-down location for a television show.  I found a place.  It was the home of a single mother and her three children, all under the age of six. They were living in abject poverty.  It was obvious this mother truly did love her children and vice versa.  Though it was my job, I could not bring myself to take reference pictures.  I said the windows did not match what was written in the script.  I left, drove up the road out of sight and pulled over.  For the longest time I just sat in my car, shocked.

When we began shooting at a nearby location, every morning the mother would come out, wearing her work uniform, and head to the bus stop, with her three children in tow.  She and I would say hello and from afar I always observed the care and tenderness she showed her children.   I thought to myself, these kids did not know the difference and to them their living conditions are normal.  Over the ensuing days, other family members such as aunts and uncles would visit and the kids were genuinely happy to see them.

I began thinking about ways I could bring a viewer into the world of a single parent family living in abject poverty, yet, doing the things a “normal” family would do.  Would we view the family who live in poverty the same way? How often do we think that people living in poverty as not showing love and affection to their children?  After witnessing this family, I wanted to, in story, bring the viewer into a world where a family, despite being under the colossal weight of poverty can indeed show that our essence prevails. The end result was Touch.

In the end, I want the viewer to be moved.  Nothing moves me more than seeing a child in need or in danger.  I feel most people are the same. I want the audience to worry and in the end be rewarded for their investment of worry.  If it sparks some greater debate on why kids, in reality, do indeed have to live like this, bonus.

And oh, that essence I promised to describe, it is the thing that makes you and I each day put on our socks, stretch the dollar, and offer a shoulder to lean on – Love.

— Noel Harris

 

 

Guest Blogger – Filmmaker Ilana Trachtman

The Pursuit: 50 Years in the Fight for LGBT Rights

by filmmaker Ilana Trachtman

I was honored and humbled when WHYY asked me to create a film about the 50th anniversary of the gay rights movement. I have been making films for over twenty years, but before that moment I did not know that my home, Philadelphia, was the sight of one of the first protests for what was then called “homosexual rights.”

In fact, there was a lot that I didn’t know about the history of the LGBT movement. Delving into this rich history in order to develop the film, I was doubly shocked: on the one hand, awed by the courage of the elder activists; and on the other, horrified by the pernicious close-mindedness and rejection that once faced LGBT people in every aspect of life.

My interest as a filmmaker is in telling the stories of real people. To make the history come alive, I chose to interview the elder activists who had lived it, who could narrate their personal experiences. To make the history relevant, I chose to tell the present-day struggles of people who are LGBT. Juxtaposing the recollections of the elders with stories of the present, we are able to observe how far we’ve come, and how far we have left to go.

I remain humbled by this history, but in completing the film I add gratitude: to the heroes who boldly spoke out when it wasn’t safe; to today’s heroes who entrusted me with their stories; to an incredible production team including Associate Producer Naomi Levine and Editor Kimberley Hassett; and to WHYY and the Pew Foundation for giving me the opportunity to make The Pursuit: 50 Years in the Fight for LGBT Rights.

Ilana Trachtman
Producer| Director| Writer
Ruby Pictures, Inc.

Guest Bloggers – Interview with Erika Street Hopman

The short narrative film, “The Orange Story” deals with America in the 1940s and the start of the Japanese internment camps.  Director Erika Street Hopman gives us an inside look into the film and it’s various aspects.

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As a filmmaker, I’m very interested in the intersection of documentary and narrative fiction filmmaking, so this story was right up my alley. When I received the first draft of the script from our producer, Eugene Park, I was very moved by the story. It was a short, but it had so much richness and so many layers to explore with the actors.

The film portrays an important but shameful moment in American history – one that is too often skipped or glossed over in school history classes. By telling this story through narrative film, I hoped we could help more people learn about Japanese American incarceration during WWII, and also help them connect it to contemporary issues and events.

The Orange Story specifically examines the culture of xenophobia and fear that led up to the incarceration. These are topics that transcend this moment in history, and continue to be relevant and important now. We started working on this film long before Trump took office, but with recent debates over immigration and the Muslim ban, it’s become more important than ever to examine what led up to Japanese American incarceration during WWII.

I love documentaries, and I think that they’re a fabulous way to tell certain stories. But when you’re looking at historical events, it’s easy for a documentary portrayal to feel distant and removed. I think it also requires a certain presupposed interest in a topic for someone to sit down and watch a documentary.

By telling this story with actors and a script, we can make the history feel more immediate and alive. We can also help people become more emotionally invested in our characters. As they watch The Orange Story, I hope people will connect with this history on a human level – not just look at it as a series of dates and facts and events. In the process, I believe people will begin to think more critically about Japanese American incarceration during WWII, and recognize the parallels to the racism and xenophobia present in their own lives.

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I hope this film inspires people to remember that small gestures matter. Each of us encounters moments in our own lives when we must decide whether to stand up against racism or perpetuate it. Those individual moments may be small, but they have a much larger context and significance.

So few Americans understand or even know about the Japanese American WWIII incarceration – there are a lot of students who are not learning about it at all. It’s not taught as widely or as in-depth as I think it should be. I think there are many reasons for that. One is that it’s such a shameful moment in our history, and a moment that in the scheme of things, is still relatively recent. As Americans, we pride ourselves on being the land of the free, and leaders regarding human and civil rights. When we talk about our country’s role in WWII, we tend to see ourselves as the heroes who helped fight Hitler and free Jews from concentrations camps. Yet at the same time, we were unjustly incarcerating our own citizens. Acknowledging and discussing that juxtaposition can lead to a lot of complicated questions about our national identity, what freedom really means to us, and how we treat minorities and immigrants in the United States. It forces a level of introspection that can be quite uncomfortable.

I see many parallels between this history and current events – particularly the treatment of Muslim-Americans, attitudes towards refugees, and our nation’s response to terrorism.  I think we have to stay vigilant to make sure that history does not repeat itself. We all have a responsibility to do and be better, and to help our country act according to the American ideals we espouse.

The film paints a grim picture of the consequences of fear and racism, but it also sends a positive message that there is hope for future generations. I will say that so far, the reception to the film has reinforced that optimism. After screenings, youth in particular have seemed to connect with Koji’s story and asked very thoughtful questions. I hope the story sticks with them and they share it with their peers.

Guest Blogger – Robin Canfield

Guest Blogger – Robin Canfield is a filmmaker who works closely with Actuality Media to help students create documentaries that help to change the world.

“The world faces global challenges, which require global solutions. These interconnected global challenges call for far-reaching changes in how we think and act for the dignity of fellow human beings. It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count. Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life. It must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it. Education must also be relevant in answering the big questions of the day.”

Priority #3 of the UN’s Global Education First Initiative

The United Nations got it exactly right when they called for transformative education as necessary to change the world. This needs to be a central tenet in advancing social justice, and it always has been a part of the educational method at Actuality Media – our motto from the beginning has been “Make Movies. Change the World.” For years we’ve been taking students – like the crew of “Girls Like Us” which is screening this year at the Show Me Justice Film Festival – around the world to teach storytelling via making a short documentary about changemakers.

girls-like-us-poster

The global reach of this is easy to see when we’re taking crews out to Tanzania, Nepal or Peru – but that it’s having a global effect can’t be taken for granted. Making sure our subject changemakers have access to the films to use for self-promotion is essential, and beyond that we work to find festivals in the area where we filmed so that local audiences will also hear every important story we have to tell. If a changemaker we are filming with has a great solution to a local problem, we want other locals to know – as well as people across the world who may be able to adapt that solution. Another of our films from 2016 – “Cada Gota Cuenta” with the water filter-making organization EcoFiltro is an easy example, as cheap and effective water filters are needed the world over. Wanting to make the knowledge of how it’s done available is a perfect example of sharing values important to social justice around the globe.

kenya-screeningA gathering in Nairobi to screen three just-completed short documentary films with locals and crews.

Of course, bringing those stories back home is an important step as well – in is not just for the rest of the world to move forward on social justice, and inspiration is needed just as much here at home. For all of the work Actuality Media does abroad, we find it difficult to launch Documentary Outreaches here in the United States, and I would like to applaud all the filmmakers at Show Me Justice who have covered stories at home. We are always looking for ways to push the creation of stories about changemakers here, and 2017 has seen the introduction of our new Changemaker In Your Community Documentary Competition which will see the winner receive a 100% scholarship towards one of our 2017 Documentary Outreaches, and (fingers crossed) will see at least a few films come in that you will see here at Show Me Justice in 2018!

Demonstrating where our values lie at home makes for a more certain base to reach from as we advance social justice around the globe. Making movies that capture these values, that tell stories of people who embody these values, is a key part of the solution to the global challenges of today and we should all be proud to be a part of this change – but not forget there is always more to be done.

 

photo by Andrea Garcia Márquez6n6a9916-sqBy Robin Canfield

Guest Blogger: Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen

Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen is a textile and conceptual artist and director of the short film “Illusionist’s Visions” which will be shown at the 2017 Show Me Justice Film Festival.

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Piquant feature

“Take one card, but don’t show it to me,” the magician Ronja Oja said and turned her back. I had trouble focusing on her tricks, because her stand-up performance was so fascinating. After the show, I started to follow Ronja’s blog, which is called “with unseeing eyes”. There was an audio of an interview, in which she tells about her life as a visually impaired person since the age of eight. The tape reveals that she viewed her piquant feature in the same way already as a child as she does now – everything is going just fine.

– What are your hobbies?
– Biking and roller blading.
– How are they going?
– Well. They are going just fine.
– When you ride a bike, do you drive in the front or behind?
– Sometimes in the front and sometimes in the back.
– Which one is easier?
– In the front. If I’m behind, the speed of the person in front may be too slow. (Laughter).

My short film Illusionist’s Visions about Ronja’s life got its inspiration from her blog post, where she wrote about her dream to become a sign language interpreter. When she inquired about the possibility of starting sign language studies, she was told that the Finnish sign language is a visual language, and that learning it requires the sense of sight. Since she had participated in a sign language course in junior high, she disagreed. As a visually impaired athlete with excellent muscular memory, she claims that out of all foreign languages that she has studied, sign language has been the easiest to learn. What annoyed her most, was that the “not accepted” selection was made already before the application process. The professors didn’t even want to hear her ideas about studying with a sign language speaking personal assistant. Nor to discuss about her opportunities to specialize in tactile signing for deaf-blinds or in one-way interpretation in theaters or television. Not to mention the future, where motion sensing cameras and smart clothing might be included in the teaching of sign language.

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In 2012, a law entered into force in Finland that was intended to prevent persons who might endanger occupational and patient safety (e.g. substance abuse and psychotic symptoms) to access certain areas of education. Unfortunately it has already been used several times to discriminate against persons with disabilities in student selection. For instance, a graphic design school was sentenced to pay a fine, since it had denied the right to study from a deaf student on the grounds that the classroom didn’t have enough room for the interpreter.  Ronja’s case is of course more complicated and unprecedented – and therefore so intriguing.

The film Illusionist’s Visions is not about the battle to get in to interpreter training, but a story of dreams. Bodily privileged people are often restricting the rights of persons with disabilities with their prejudices and by maintaining stereotypical ideas of what kind of things are possible and which not. Assumptions that a blind person would not do magic tricks nor speak sign language is a subconcious way to build barriers to inclusion. As a spin-off, these negative presuppositions make purposeful and active persons with disabilities look like exceptional heroes. Ronja has not chosen her hobbies in spite of her disability but like most of us, due to her passions and interests.

For me it was fascinating to hear, how a person who doesn’t follow the non-verbal communication of others, finds the beauty of gestures and body-language when she becomes acquainted with sign language. I began to ask, what is it like to live isolated from this visual culture, where it’s more and more important to stage the scene of existence by photos, videos and other visible things. What kind of visual role you create when you can’t get inspiration from others?

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Disability as a concept doesn’t mean defective individuals but a way of treating people whose features differ from the imaginary norms. Everyday life of persons with disabilities doesn’t improve by observing problems. It is more important to recognize barriers due to which people’s dreams and top moments of life are threatened. Illusionist’s visions attempts to open our seeing eyes to understand better what is it like to live with a visual impairment. It has also many unfocused and blurred pictures to attract people who see to close their eyes and follow the illusions produced by the sounds and audio description. It offers short flashes of disability culture and it is made completely by persons with disabilities.

– Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen