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Superfest Filmmaker Reid Davenport Tells the Story of Deaf parents with Hearing Children

Reid Davenport is an award-winning documentarian whose films focus on people with disabilities. Founder and co-director of Through My Lens, Davenport has been creating films and public speaking for five years. As a man with cerebral palsy, his hope is to inspire disabled students to share their personal stories, as he has done. “There is a tremendous space for amateur videos now on YouTube and social media and a few people with disabilities have already grasped that fact and taken back the narrative,” he says. “That’s what we want to encourage, take back and start to chip away at the misrepresentations of disability.”

Reid Davenport speaks onstage to an audience. 


Reid’s short film On Beat, co-directed by Cheng Zhang, will be shown on Sunday, November 5 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco for 2017’s Superfest International Disability Festival.

On Beat follows Larry and Tanisha Cotton, a Deaf couple with three hearing children. The family uses music to bond and express themselves. Davenport and Zhang discovered the Cotton family with another story in mind, having heard about Uber’s efforts to hire Deaf drivers (Larry is a driver), but once he came across their gospel group, he knew he had a different story to tell.

Davenport and co-director Cheng Zhang collaborated by playing off each other’s strengths. Because “her strength was shooting,” and Davenport “was more involved in the interviewing,” they “balanced each other quite well.” Davenport also brought a disability aesthetic to the film, as he has in other projects as well, by “shying away from medicalization of the disability, trying not to make a portrait a pathological impairment, instead focusing on the social impact of being disabled.”

The main thing Davenport wants other filmmakers to know is that with the proliferation of social media comes a unique opportunity. “The authority over the audience that they have is unprecedented, so they need to tell their stories.” He urges them to embrace stories about disability and not shy away from it.

Watch the trailer to On Beat below and buy your tickets to catch it at Superfest today:

Giving Voice: Michele Spitz supports LightHouse, extraordinary filmmakers, burgeoning artists and Superfest 2016

Professional voiceover artist and lifelong patron of the arts Michele Spitz is dedicated to making the world more accessible to people with disabilities by providing her vocal talents to filmmakers, publishers, speaking venues and charitable organizations. Wherever Michele’s voice is, her heart is also: short and full length documentaries, feature films, children’s programming, museums, industrial videos, audio manuals and PSAs.

Michele is most passionate about her audio description work for the visually impaired — having voiced 37 films including documentary features. In addition to Michele’s audio description work, she also personally underwrites hundreds of patron attendance tickets, as well as artist interactive programs for the performing, visual and cultural arts world. This underwriting program serves: disabled, seniors, veterans and underserved communities.

Michele has also provided her voice for our Superfest International Disability Film Festival, as well as for our headquarters — hers is the voice you hear on our phone system’s recorded greeting!

In light of her unyielding support of LightHouse programs and the growing relevance of audio description as a force in media, Michele sat down with LightHouse’s Paul Blaney to discuss her passion for art and her unwavering support for those with disabilities.

LightHouse: Why is supporting artists with disabilities important to you?

Michele: Art is healing; we can all identify something in art that resonates within us. However, for the blind community, access to visual art can be challenging. It is my hope to ensure that visual art is appealing and accessible to everyone.

LightHouse: What drew you to LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired?

Michele: LightHouse for the Blind is leading the way for those with blindness or low vision and supports the quest to identify and build community. Through trailblazing programs, resources, guides and activities geared specifically for blind people, LightHouse reinforces the need for accessible and meaningful support.

LightHouse: What important message would you like to convey to those unfamiliar with artists with disabilities?

Michele: Living with a disability should not prevent one from accessing and appreciating art. It is my hope (through audio description and underwriting performing arts programming) to expand awareness of the blind community, so everyone can deepen their enjoyment of art.

LightHouse: How do you select your audio description projects?

Michele: I often ask myself: ‘What haven’t I covered? What can I do next to support people living with disabilities?’ I want to be involved with projects that raise awareness and connect people to their community. Often, it’s lack of exposure that prohibits people from understanding the nuances of the art world. It’s my job to break stereotypes and give people ample opportunities to explore for themselves the interplay between art and humanity.

LightHouse: What are your future plans for working with the disability community?

Michele: I will continue to pursue partnerships with artists who push the envelope in developing projects with and for the disability community. My goal is to forge long-lasting relationships reflective of my passion for the arts, my desire to heighten awareness and, in doing so, attract more people to the cause.

LightHouse: Thank you for chatting with us Michele!

You may read more about Michele’s work at womanofherword.com.

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