Like many award-winning documentary films, the latest release by Gold Pictures seeks to amuse viewers while turning the spotlight on an unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable, topic. A screening of “CinemAbility” at College of the Canyons on Friday is a golden opportunity for Santa Clarita residents to take a fresh look at the ways Hollywood has shaped the worldview of disabled individuals.
But if your mental image is that of a depressing, difficult film, think again.
“It’s funny, it’s uplifting, and entertaining,” said Jenni Gold, director of “CinemAbility.”
Viewers will see Geena Davis, Ben Affleck and Jamie Fox, among other A-listers, in the film.
“I put in as many people as I possibly could to make it attractive,” Gold said. “You hear ‘documentary’ and ‘disability’ and you run for the hills.”
Typically, Gold Pictures’ productions are narrative films. One of the company’s releases is about killer cockroaches that attack a college campus, for instance. In this case, the director said, “CinemAbility” is “a love story to Hollywood,” but also an informative look at how the public’s perception of disabilities has been shaped by media portrayals.
Gold works in Hollywood while grappling with the challenges of muscular dystrophy herself, which is one reason she was interested in the project. She is one of only two members of the Directors Guild of America with a visible disability, she said.
“We have a lot of truth that people either overlooked or never knew,” Gold said.
The movie never would have come to town if it wasn’t for the will of Santa Clarita resident and “CinemAbility’s biggest fan,” Leland Lewitt.
“He was very determined,” Gold said. “He wouldn’t come to any of our screenings — Leland insisted that we come to Valencia. It really meant something to him.”
And despite the fact that scheduling a screening is no small feat, Lewitt was successful.
“I was born with an intellectual disability,” he explained. “When I was attending junior high school, I was called ‘retard’ and made fun of almost daily. This film will show the people in my community that people with disabilities have feelings and deserve to be treated with respect. No one in my community has even heard of this film, and I want to change that.”
The 101-minute film will be followed by a panel discussion, all part of College of the Canyons Friday Night Films program.
“The film fits nicely into our program and Leland is very persistent, to say the least,” said Gary Peterson, COC cinema department chair, who has not seen the film yet. “We are happy to show the film to the community.”
The filmmaker seeks to inform the public about the experience of anyone underrepresented or misrepresented in the media.
“We’re united in one front — inclusion,” Gold said.
It took Gold about 10 years of research, pulling in celebrities and putting the filmmaking pieces together. Once it was “in the can,” she joked that it’s a whole second career promoting it.
“CinemAbility” is only available through specialty screenings and will be officially released in 2018. That means they show the film at corporate events, industry events, etc.
“It’s a slow, grassroots campaign,” Gold said. “We are independent and under-funded.”
Viewers will see both sides of the story, because Gold is careful not to inject her own opinion. She wants audiences to develop their own opinions, never forgetting to keep it light and engaging.
“We realize we’re just here to entertain,” she said. “We can’t educate unless people are having fun.”
Even famous comedy filmmaker Peter Farrelly said that “CinemAbility” got more laughs than some of his films, according to Gold, who added, “People leave in a very good mood.”
The program begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 13 in Hasley 101 on the COC Valencia Campus, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Valencia. It is free and open to all, starting with an introduction by the director and a Q & A after the film. For more information, email Gary.email@example.com or visit Cinemability.com.