Written by Beth, staff member, Captain William Spry Public Library
On International Day of People with Disabilities, we celebrate the diverse lives of those with different types of disabilities, both visible and otherwise. These stories can open our eyes to how others move through the world and come up against walls that abled people often can’t see. With both feature films and documentaries, there’s something for everyone on this list.
1. Still Alice
Based on the novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice is the story of a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease when she is 50. The film follows her and her family as they navigate this new reality.
2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old with Autism Spectrum Disorder. His father tragically dies in 9/11, and the film follows Oskar as he deals with and lives through the aftermath.
Frida is the story of famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who lived with physical disabilities after an accident. Shortly after the film begins, Frida is on a bus when it collides with a streetcar and is impaled by a pole. She miraculously lives, but she must live with the consequences of her injuries.
4. A Time for Drunken Horses
A Time for Drunken Horses is an Iranian film about a Kurdish family. After his parents die, young Ayoub must take charge. His younger brother has a developmental disability and is also in need of medical attention. A Time for Drunken Horses follows Ayoub as he does anything he can to raise the funds to help his brother.
After a car accident that kills her son, Claire Bennet suffers from chronic pain. She has become bitter and addicted to her pain medication. After making comments about the recent suicide of another member of her support group, Claire is asked to leave. The film follows her relationships with the people in her life after this, especially with her housekeeper.
6. Margarita with a Straw
Margarita with a Straw is an Indian Hindu-language film about a university student with cerebral palsy. Laila Kapoor is studying in India, but decides to relocate to America to finish school. There she makes friends, and falls in love with a girl named Khanum who is blind.
7. OCD and Me
WHO, the World Health Organization, has stated that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the ten most debilitating illnesses. This documentary tries to get to the heart of it by speaking with people who suffer from OCD as well as experts on mental illness and OCD.
8. Code of the Freaks
Code of the Freaks is a recent documentary about the representation of disabled people in films. It tackles worn-out tropes and stereotypes, highlighting the impact of representation on the attitudes of society toward people with disabilities.
9. Normal People Scare Me
Normal People Scare Me is an acclaimed documentary about the lives of people on the Autism Spectrum. Made by an Autistic filmmaker and his disabilities advocate mother, Normal People Scare Me takes an interview style approach. They ask questions of their participants that neurotypical/allistic people may not think to, such as, “Do you like being Autistic?”
Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the most painful and most misunderstood mental illnesses. This documentary follows one woman’s experience with BPD.
11. Read Me Differently
While in post-secondary education, the filmmaker, Sarah Etine, realized she has dyslexia and ADHD. Unfortunately, late diagnosis of learning differences and neurodivergence is very common, especially for girls and women. In the film, Etine explores how these issues have impacted three generations of her family and their relationships with one another.
12. Invitation to Dance
Invitation to Dance follows one woman’s experience with physical disabilities in the 21st century and her activism through dance.