Ten years ago, Rick Randall had what he calls a “realisation of absence”. Sitting at a kitchen table with a glass of wine, surrounded by friends with disabilities and artists who worked with them, he wondered why there was no disability film festival. “As we know,” he says, “there’s a film festival for everything else!”
That’s how the Other Film Festival was born in 2004. Now located at North Melbourne’s Arts House, it provides films and forums to show the lived experience of those with a disability. This year, the festival club will even have roaming Auslan interpreters to facilitate random conversation between hearing and deaf attendees.
In a program varied enough to include everything from Finnish punks to self-proclaimed princesses, one of Randall’s highlights is Aphasia. It’s the true story of Carl McIntyre, a man with a “golden tongue” who loses the ability to communicate after a massive stroke. “Using the language he’s recovered – about a thousand words – Carl communicated his experience to the filmmaker, who wrote a script and directed Carl to play himself. It’s a much-mediated film which is very moving and very funny. Carl will be a guest of the festival to talk about that process, and he’s certainly not lost the golden tongue. It’s just polished in a different way.”
Randall is determined the festival’s purpose must never be to educate. “Nobody goes to a festival to seek wisdom,” he says. “You go to seek the new. You want to be surprised, to be entertained. Most of all, you want to be taken somewhere you’ve never been taken before.”