Montclair is known for its diversity and at this year’s Montclair Film Festival, “I Am Montclair” a short film about an amazingly diverse group of people living in Montclair — people with and without disabilities, advocates, families, and caregivers — tells an important story about Montclair, extraordinary people with exceptional stories, and the quest for a more integrated community.
The Montclair Township Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities doesn’t usually get involved with picking camera angles, scouting film locations and organizing film cameos by, to name just a few, Mayor Jackson, local students, a teacher’s assistant at the YMCA and local entrepreneurs like Alma Schneider and Baristanet’s Liz George.
But that’s just what members of the Committee did last summer. Directed by Montclair resident, Nadine Licostie, and produced by RedThread Productions and fellow Montclairian and Committee member, Lily Vakili, “I Am Montclair” is a disability awareness project that features personal interviews with an amazingly diverse group of people living in Montclair.
“The film was born out of the Committee’s interest in helping the broader community better understand what disability means and that, with education, familiarity and compassion, we can each choose to create a more integrated and supportive community,” says Vakili.
The best way, it was agreed, was to talk to Montclair “face to face” in a way that could be shared widely – and the best means for doing that was film. It was also important that the film reflect the diversity of disability — given that, directly or indirectly, disability affects everyone, regardless of ethnicity, religion, age or gender. Committee members talked to family, friends, and colleagues; asking for volunteers to participate in the filming. The turn out, as can be seen in the film, was truly inspiring.
At its heart, I Am Montclair is a community’s call to action for greater acknowledgment, acceptance and inclusion of individuals with disabilities.