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WE CARE Festival - Using films to build a conversation about disability

August 23, 2018

For 15 years now, the WE CARE film festival has been playing the crucial role of sensitizing India's youth about disability through films, which is such a powerful medium in the country. The festival is an initiative of the organization Brotherhood, in partnership with United Nations and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to raise awareness and to dispel stereotypes about disabilities

Satish Kapoor, founder-director of WE CARE says the festival was started in educational institutions, with the primary aim of educating students.

When we started in 2003 we started with colleges and other educational institutes as we wanted to sensitize the youth towards various disability issues. Films are a powerful medium, especially in India, and we thought this would be effective in helping to change attitudes. - Satish Kapoor, Founder-Director, WE CARE festival

Change of approach

Initially the festival showed films made in Hollywood and the Hindi film industry. However, they did not create much impact or generate a conversation, as students were familiar with them. There was no element of surprise.

So, in 2005, the festival was made a competitive one with filmmakers invited to send in their entries. This was for short films, that could be for a minute or of five minutes.

The response was quite overwhelming, with 45 entries coming from across India!

The quality of those films was so good that people still remember them. Most of them were personal stories that highlighted the ability in disability. They showed how someone who is blind or does not have a leg is able to do so many things. - Satish Kapoor, Founder-Director, WE CARE festival

Change in tone

Over the years 1,200 films have been screened in the various festivals held. Apart from films by Indian filmmakers, productions from Iran, Japan and China, have also been screened.

Rather than make a 'display' of disability, the films highlight how people with disabilities are able to lead live and mingle in society like everyone else. Heroism is no longer the main theme.

A large part of this was because of the change in approach adopted by WE CARE. From 2007, the films were screened for students in mass communication colleges and filmmaking institutes. They would then be asked to rate them using the films screened earlier as a benchmark. This meant that these students could learn from the earlier examples.

Common platform

Over time the WE CARE festival has created a common platform for filmmakers and disability NGOs as well, which has helped build conversations around the need for accessible venues. This year, the festival collaborated with the Odisha government initiative called Sashakt, a disability awareness campaign held across 30 districts of the state.

So far, WE CARE has organized 180 film festivals, most of them in partnership with local organizations. The next festival is in Guwahati on 6 and 7 September at the campus of the National Law University. However, the lack of support from the Centre for the last two years has seen no new entries coming in, which is a matter of concern.

This is a truly an important and impactful initiative targeting a critical audience, which is the youth, and needs to be supported in every way.

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