A disabled filmmaker sets out to find someone with a body just like hers, while painting a deeply authentic portrait of what it means to live a proudly disabled life in an ableist world.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
A gentle, intimate addition to the growing lexicon of disabled cinema, director and subject Ella Glendining’s search for another person with her rare disability unfolds over four years, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the birth of her son.
Employing a patchwork blend of home videos, selfie-cam confessionals and traditional interviews, the premise of the documentary centres upon Glendining’s yearning for connection with other similarly-disabled people. This simple setup ultimately serves as a springboard into a far more visceral interrogation of the medical lens through which society still sees disabled people: as people to be “fixed”, or as Glendining puts it, “[seeing] disability as a fate worse than death”.
While clearly fighting the narrative demands of nondisabled producers (she emphatically denounces demands for a “nondisabled hero”) Glendining largely holds her own, treating disabled audiences to a particularly luxurious third act where the narrative pretence is cast aside, and the cast simply revels in collective disability joy. Less raucous than Crip Camp, and more circumspect than I Didn’t See You There, this is nonetheless an intimate and moving discovery of the joys of disabled kinship. A must-see for disabled and disability-adjacent audiences, and anyone who has ever wondered what ableism really looks like. — Red Nicholson
“[The film explores] the complicated question of socialized ableism and consent—where parents are asked whether they’ll subject their toddlers to procedures with substantial risks and long recoveries. Will these kids have happier lives post-procedure? More “normal” ones? Is it a question that comes down to the individual, or is there an element of community and culture that should be considered?” — Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine
Is There Anybody Out There? will be screened with open captions.
An audio-described session will screen in Auckland at Rialto Cinemas Newmarket on Saturday 29 July and in Wellington at The Embassy (Deluxe screen), also on Saturday 29 July. Find out more about our accessbility screenings at our NZIFF Access page HERE.