On January 15, 2020, The Ruderman Family Foundation, a leading international disability rights organization, announced an unprecedented partnership with the 2020 Sundance Film Festival that represents the renowned global arts event’s public prioritization of the issue of disability inclusion.
The film festival’s parent organization — Sundance Institute — is teaming with the Foundation to expand disability inclusion and diversity at this year’s Festival (held January 23 – February 2) as well as during the entire year. The themes of inclusion and accessibility will be highlighted throughout the Festival’s programming.
As an official partner of this year’s Festival and a year-round partner of Sundance Institute, the Foundation is presenting an opening-weekend (Friday, January 24) screening of “Crip Camp,” a documentary which tells the story of how a summer camp for teenagers with disabilities shaped the future of the disability rights movement; the screening will be followed by an expanded Q&A. Additionally, the Foundation is partnering with The Atlantic to host a Festival panel discussion on disability inclusion and diversity in entertainment on Sunday, January 26 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at The Box at the Ray.
“We are excited that Sundance shares our commitment to advancing the rights of those who have been historically underrepresented in film, media, theater, and other artistic platforms,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Our partnership will enable Sundance to infuse themes of inclusion of people with disabilities and diversity throughout the festival and its year-round programming while casting a crucial spotlight among the festival’s 120,000-plus attendees on our work to pioneer a culture of greater inclusion in the entertainment industry.”
“In our efforts to create a collaborative and inclusive Festival community, it’s key to have a broad and engaged cohort of like-minded organizations,” said Karim Ahmad, the Institute’s Director of Outreach and Inclusion. “Support for our priorities — both practical and philosophical — is key, and we’re very grateful to the Ruderman Family Foundation for their important contribution to our work at the Festival.”
Last month, the Foundation circulated an open letter to the entertainment industry calling on studio, production and network executives to create more opportunities for actors with disabilities and practice more inclusive casting. The letter’s notable signatories thus far include Oscar nominees Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston, and Mark Ruffalo; Oscar winners Chris Cooper and Marlee Matlin; Oscar-winning director Peter Farrelly and his brother, acclaimed filmmaker Bobby Farrelly; Emmy Award winner Glenn Close; Tony Award winner Ali Stroker; Golden Globe winner Tony Shaloub; Screen Actors Guild Award winners Eva Longoria and Jason Alexander; acclaimed author, actor and screenwriter Marianne Leone Cooper and comedian and actor Orlando Jones.
Further, the Foundation recently published research revealing that about half of U.S. households support accurate portrayals of characters with disabilities and would sign up for a content distributor committed to actors with disabilities. Those households’ collective spending power is estimated at $10.4 billion per month.
In recognition of its efforts to foster inclusion in entertainment, the Foundation received the SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award at the Media Access Awards in 2017 and 2019.
Carolyn is a Freelance Film Critic, Journalist, and Podcaster – and avid live tweeter. Member of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), her published work can be found on But Why Tho, The Beat, Observer, and many other sites. As a critic, she believes her personal experiences and outlook on life, give readers and listeners a different perspective they can appreciate.