Every year there is a short film festival put on by NOVA Employment that focuses on ability. Last year the festival had 267 entries, which included 82 school entries and 61 international films. All these films are based on disability with a focus on abilities within different disabilities. There were screenings around the world and the competition received entries from 19 countries. The films were screened on both SBS and Foxtel.
The festival is a creative and fun way to advocate for disabilities and show everyone who watches these films some of the positive aspects of different disabilities.
Taking out the NOVA Employment choice award for the 2020 Focus on Ability Short Film Festival was 18- year-old Sydney resident Zoe Fraser for her film ‘A Gift’. Zoe won a new Kia Cerato for her film.
Zoe Fraser’s short film was about showing the positives to her brother Luka’s life with autism. Zoe remembers the day her six-year-old brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s, and him telling her: “I want people to know how I feel”. Zoe has grown up being able to see how he has overcome the everyday challenges that a neurotypical person would not think twice about. From her exposure of growing up with Luka and seeing how he navigates his life, Zoe wanted to portray the idea that a-typical does not mean abnormal. And that it is society that has created an environment where a-typical people are left feeling uncomfortable and abnormal.
Zoe described her film as wanting to convey autism with a positive outlook, by focusing on the gift this disorder provides and neglecting the negatives. Her animation was intended to advocate for a group that does not have the social capabilities to express their struggles.
As Luka’s sister, she felt a responsibility to deconstruct his autism in the hope that those who viewed the t film will reconsider their own knowledge and understanding of the autism spectrum. As Luka’s sister, Zoe has witnessed his Asperger’s and understands it at a higher level than most people. She has gotten the chance to watch him grow into the beautiful boy he is. “Throughout the years I have noticed how doctors and people around him would often focus on the negative parts about his autism, saying Luka lacks social interaction, he is ‘weird’, and has behavioural problems,” she said. But this is not how Zoe feels, or sees, her brother. While she believes his autism may cause some of these aspects to be more prominent, it also impacts his life in significant and positive ways.” Luka has a photographic memory and an amazing sense of humour.”
This film also resonates with Zoe on a personal level. She has experienced a variety of learning difficulties, including dyslexia. She always felt that doctors and tutors would focus on the hardships of these difficulties and said things like: “You’re not capable of finishing high school.” Doctors also made similar comments about Luka, but Zoe is confident that he will graduate, and part of that reason is because his autism brings so many gifts that society choose not to acknowledge. Zoe chose to make this film to prove what both she and her brother can do because of their abilities.
Entries for this year’s festival close on July 30, 2021.