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’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: