Arc hosts Sprout Film Festival

Posted: November 15, 2012

The Winchester Star

Winchester — The lives of people with intellectual and physical disabilities will be celebrated today and Friday as part of a film festival in Winchester.

The Arc of the Northern Shenandoah Valley is presenting the Sprout Film Festival, which shows films directed, produced, written or acted by people with disabilities, said Maripeg Combs, festival chairperson.

The festival, which started Wednesday, continues today with showings at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 181 Kernstown Commons Blvd., and at 7 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley, 6380 Valley Pike, Stephens City.

This is the second year the organization has hosted the festival, which is a national touring event based in New York, Combs said. The festival gives people with disabilities the chance to show their skills and those who watch it a greater understanding of their possibilities.

“This is a celebration of the ability of people whom we are often telling what they can’t do,” said Combs of Frederick County. “Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, we want to focus on what they can do by celebrating them in film.”

Today’s showings at the Alamo will be two sets of short films with 10 movies in each, Combs said. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for Arc members and students.

The short films run the gamut of emotions and themes just like mainstream movies, she said.

“There are themes that have to do with finding a job, with living as independently as possible, with getting involved in a relationship and falling in love,” Combs said. “The idea is that can happen just as easily for people with disabilities as it does for the regular population.”

Unlike some films such as “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” or “Rain Man,” where an actor plays a person with a disability, the films in the festival actually feature people who live every day with disabilities, said Niki Pangle, executive director.

Seeing those issues onscreen being acted out by people who have actually gone through them is an amazing experience for The Arc’s clients, she said. It gives them a sense of empowerment.

“It gives them a sense to say, ‘Hey, those are people doing things I like to do, too.’ It just gives them a sense of ‘I can be just like everyone else, living a life like yours,’ which is The Arc’s motto,” said Pangle of Frederick County.

Friday will feature a full-length feature film called “The Eighth Day,” which is being shown in conjunction with Magic Lantern Theater, Combs said. It is a 1996 Belgian film about a man who meets and befriends a man with Down syndrome.

This film was nominated in 1996 for the Palme d’Or Award, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and won the Best Actor award for its two stars, Pascal Duquenne and Daniel Auteuil. The film also was nominated for a Golden Globe award.

Admission to the Friday showing is by donation.

Hopefully these films will help educate the public about the life of someone with a disability so that they can better understand that in many ways he or she is no different than anyone else, Combs said. “They have strengths, they have weaknesses, they have abilities as well as disabilities.”

The Arc serves people with intellectual and physical disabilities and their families, Pangle said. The group provides support and advocacy for its clients, financial support for people trying to live independently, and educational workshops for parents, among other things.

The programs serve 100 to 200 people a year from Winchester and Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah counties, she said.

All of the money raised from the festival will benefit the Kermit W. Schroeder Jr. Endowment Fund, which was established by a former board member to give individuals with disabilities the opportunity to apply for things they might not otherwise have access to, Pangle said. The fund has helped with financial assistance for renting an apartment, paying for camps or social events, and medical procedures not covered by insurance or Medicaid.

“It is a wonderful way to help out those who desperately need those services,” she said.


For ticket information, call 540-665-0461.

— Contact Laura McFarland at