The Story of Liz
By: Stephen Brookes MBE
On March 13th award winning writer, filmmaker and wheelchair user Liz Crow along with other disabled colleagues were unable to join in a party to celebrate their involvement in the London based Birds Eye Film Festival, because the venue selected by the organisers for the prestigious event was the Café de Paris in Coventry St, and as a grade 2 listed building it is not adapted for access by disabled people.
Copyright © - Stephen Brookes MBE 2005 - All rights reserved
For Liz the opportunity to use her creative work to provoke change in issues surrounding disability has been very successful. The Bristol based filmmaker is the award winning founder of Roaring Girl Productions whose films have included Rapture, 21 Things to Remember, and festival contribution Frida Kahlo's Corset, a short experimental drama about the Mexican painter who wore a series of orthopaedic corsets because of impairment. The key is that it refutes the picture of Kahlo’s life as one of tragedy and suffering.
The Birds Eye Festival exists to promote women filmmakers in an industry where only 7% of feature film directors are women. But for Liz the double whammy of gender and disability are an issue.
‘In my work, I try to make people think about living with inclusion’ Liz says ‘but then in a festival that’s specifically there to promote inclusion, there’s an irony that I’m being excluded. What’s happening at Birds Eye View is symbolic of the entire industry, where virtually every event I’ve ever attended has been inaccessible.”
Birds Eye promotion material asked people to ‘join us in supporting this ground-breaking cause celebrating the success of the UK’s first major women’s film festival’. But as Liz says,
They, and those in the industry, particularly commissioning editors and funders fail to identify with disabled people, so the industry itself is discriminatory. What the mainstream of the industry has not yet realised is that it can only gain from our inclusion – for now, it is missing out on our skills and perspectives’.
Writer and D.N.film critic Allan Sutherland supported Liz. He feels that discrimination in the film industry is so ingrained that most don’t even know it's there. He also says that ‘the festival organisers had a responsibility under the disability discrimination act to make access and the services they provide accessible to all’. However, Liz and her group were not unseen at the festival, as they held their own party on the pavement outside the Café de Paris from 7pm.
Celebrity guests and patrons, including Jerry Hall, Joanna Lumley, Mike Figgis Mira Nair and Alison Steadman who should have passed this alternative party surprisingly cancelled their attendance at short notice.
Liz hopes this means they will in future demonstrate their support for equal rights and access for disabled people. ‘I hope it pricks their conscience to realising they have a role in tackling the discrimination that is still part of our lives’ says Liz who co-produced and co-directed The Real Helen Keller for Channel Four Television and is currently examining creative work to provoke change, thanks to a Fellowship award of £75,000 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts), which invests in UK creativity and innovation.
© Steve Brookes MBE
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