“CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion”is a documentary that investigates the way media portrayals impact the actual inclusion of people with disabilities in society. Directed by Jenni Gold and starring Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Bryan Cranston, Geena Davis and others, the film discusses the 120-year history of how people with disabilities are being represented in film and television. Gold is the only wheelchair-using director on the Director’s Guild of America.
“I’ve always really loved Hollywood, and as a kid I remember watching Spielberg’s Jaws. I loved the impact it had on people,” Gold said. “I started off in photography and then making short films. That led me to film school and then I learned all about the Director’s Guild and that was the goal — to become a part of that. I just got excited about telling stories that people would respond to.”
Her inspiration to making this film actually came from an article by the Los Angeles Times. When producers saw the article, they originally wanted to make a documentary on Gold. She had a different vision, however, and aimed to create a film on disabilities in Hollywood.
“This particular topic of portrayal of disabilities and society’s understanding of it hadn’t been touched,” Gold said. “Even within ‘Corporate America,’ when they talk about diversity, disabilities were being ignored. I realized there was something that had to be done.”
Gold began her career as a producer and director in 1991. Most of her films and shorts followed a narrative and a script; however, she began directing documentaries in 2013 with “CinemAbility.”
“It was very interesting to capture special moments in the background. I didn’t realize how much I was going to enjoy [the directing process] but I am curious by nature and I like talking to people and finding stuff out. Doing that and getting people that really opened up was a lot of fun,” Gold said.
The film features over 20 different authors, actors and people knowledgeable in the entertainment industry. The documentary reveals their experience and their thoughts on the subject while showcasing clips on the evolution of the portrayal of the disabled in the media.
“It was a lot of research. We had to find a way to getting through to [the cast] and their availability because sometimes we had to move on a dime, unlike a narrative, where you know what you’re doing. The people we interviewed were very witty and fun,” Gold said. “I wanted a piece that would be entertaining and enjoyable but also provide people with some insight.”
Since the release of the film, Gold has worked on other narrative projects such as “Aaah! Roach!” which is currently in post-production. She plans to continue telling her stories whether it be through documentary or through a narrative.
“[Aaah! Roach!] was a blast to do and people are really responding well to it. But, I am intrigued by documentaries and I don’t think I’m going to stop,” Gold said. “I have a couple other ideas bouncing around. If I can get them up and going, I will probably do them as well.”
The film, originally released in 2012, received a great response among critics, winning awards at several film festivals, from the Burbank International Film Festival to Golden Reel Awards. The documentary has been re-released across video-on-demand services and DVD on Oct. 5 to coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
“Don’t give up despite what people say. For me, this is like oxygen. Just like oxygen, I can’t go without storytelling,” Gold said. “If you are passionate about your dreams and this is it for you, there are other people with you paving the way, so join the party.”