Rodef Shalom Congregation

October 22 – 29
Various times

Pittsburgh is home host to numerous film festivals with a variety of perspectives and subjects—from the Reel Q Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the longstanding Three Rivers Film Festival, to CMU’s International Faces of Work and the brand new Pittsburgh Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk

A unique cinema event that focuses its lens on the lives, stories and artistic expression of people with different disabilities is setting up shop at Rodef Shalom for eight days in October. Co-presented by the FISA Foundation and JFilm, the ReelAbilities Film Festival features screenings and complementary programs such as conversations with directors, live jazz, catered receptions and an art exhibition. For its third annual installment, ReelAbilities includes five feature films hailing from USA, Kenya, France and Belgium that highlight the contributions people with disabilities make to society.

One story you don’t want to miss on opening night is On Beauty, Joanna Rudnick’s 2015 film about award-winning fashion photographer Rick Guidotti. After 15-plus years shooting super models who are household names (think: Cindy and Naomi), and working for high-profile clients like Yves Saint Laurent, Revlon and Elle, Guidotti rewrote the book on ideals of beauty, fashion and modeling after a random encounter at an NYC bus stop. The famed photo spotted a young woman with albinism, a genetic condition that results in loss of pigmentation in the hair and eyes, and was inspired to re-focus his lens on photographing people with genetic differences.

The Finishers
The Finishers

Guidotti stopped working in the fashion industry and created a nonpofit called Positive Exposure which uses photography and video to change public perceptions about people living with genetic, physical and behavioral differences. Don’t miss this chance to see Guidotti’s compelling new film and join in on this important conversation with the photographer after the screening.

Jazz fans won’t want to miss Adam Kahan’s documentary, The Case of the Three-Sided Dream, which explores the life and legacy of multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935 – 1977). A master of the tenor saxophone, flute and keyboards—just to name a few—Kirk is acclaimed for his ability to play several instruments simultaneously, along with his onstage charisma and witty repartee, virtuoso improvisation and outspoken political view.

Mimi and Dona
Mimi and Dona

Kirk, a child prodigy who become blind at a very young age, went on to lead his own bands with a sound rooted in soul jazz and hard bop that also drew from free jazz, ragtime and swing. Everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Thurston Moore has called him an influence. A performance by legendary Pittsburgh drummer Roger Humphries, who played with Kirk in the 1970s, will follow the film.

Additional ReelAbilities films include: Sophie Sartain’s heartfelt and humorous documentary, Mimi and Dona, Lou Howe’s 2014 film Gabriel starring actor Rory Culkin and Nils Tavernier’s The Finishers, a French father-son drama about 17-year-old Julien who has cerebral palsy and challenges his father to participate in the Ironman triathlon with him.

Augmenting the lineup will be Change How You See, See How You Change, an art exhibition at Rodef Shalom featuring work by Rick Guidotti along with Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Martha Rial’s The Goddess Project.

View a complete ReelAbilities schedule and purchase tickets.

Jennifer BaronArts & Entertainment / Jobs Editor

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.