Leading up to this year’s festival, we will be highlighting the fascinating stories behind our 2014 filmmakers and their submissions.
Studying abroad as a college student seems like a rite of passage these days. Most institutions highly encourage their students by offering a variety of programs, countries to visit and even scholarships. Picturesque images of strolling through a palazzo eating gelato or climbing the acropolis come to mind when envisioning a European abroad program. Unfortunately, when the ancient cultures built some of the greatest cities around the world, they didn’t exactly keep in mind the needs of the people with disabilities. Or so Reid Davenport found out.
Reid has cerebral palsy and though he is ambulatory, he prefers using a wheelchair to keep from losing energy. In a Washington Post op-ed last year, Reid said throughout his undergraduate years at George Washington University, “I’d planned on visiting Italy, my grandmother’s homeland.” He settled on Florence but once admitted, ran into some major roadblocks.
Program administrators discouraged Reid from bringing his electric wheelchair due to housing constraints near the campus and the city’s notorious cobbled sidewalks with few curb cuts for access points. Discouraged, Reid abandoned his study abroad dreams but months later, the travel bug was still biting. He knew his woes must be felt by others in the disabled community and set out to document this experience.
In April 2011, Reid received a $5,000 fellowship and along with cameraman Mark Abramson, raised an additional $8,000 through Kickstarter to explore accessibility in the Old World. Five cities and 13 interviews later, Reid recounted his experiences in the documentary Wheelchair Diaries: One Step Up. The film premiered last July at the Awareness Festival in Los Angeles, winning Best Documentary Short and helped launched Reid as a motivational speaker.
At DCIFF, we’re excited to be featuring Reid’s incredible story during our “Docs and Shorts at Night” session on Friday, February 21st. Come join us for a screening of Wheelchair Diaries along with three other short films from 7:30 to 9:30pm at the Naval Memorial Heritage Center President’s Room.