festival program cover with woman floating underwater on wheelchair

The Other Film Festival is a biennial festival showcasing new cinema by, with and about people with disability. One in five people experience some sort of disability but we rarely see these kinds of stories or experiences in the cinema. The 6th Other Film Festival screens films about the experience of disability from around the world, with features and short films. There are also a range of talks and discusions from experts.

The festival runs from December 3 to December 7, and screenings, somewhat fittingly, take place at the Melbourne Brain Centre in the Kenneth Myer Building in Melbourne University.


FIXED is a 60 minute documentary looking at the concept of transhumanism and the radical technology that can change the lives of people with disabilities. The film looks at bionic limbs and neural implants, technology that is changing the lives of people. We meet six people from different backgrounds, all with disabilities and they talk about how they cope.

SONS AND MOTHERS is an intimate, inspiring and moving documentary which tracks the Mens Ensemble Theatre group in Sydney. This theatre group works with a group of mentally handicapped men to rehearse and stage a show that acts as a love letter to their mothers. Director Christopher Houghton uses a verite style to observe the process over the course of 18 months. There are candid and moving interviews with some of the men and their mothers, who reveal heartbreaking stories about their journey. Houghton and his cinematographer work in closeup which heightens the emotional impact of the material.


I must admit that I had never heard of rock and roll icon Doc Pomus before. But he was a songwriter who wrote over 1000 songs, including classic hits such as Save The Last Dance For Me, and Viva Las Vegas, as well as writing songs for the likes of Ray Charles. This documentary looks at the life and times of this songwriter who was born Jerome Felder in 1925, and who contracted polio at the age of 6. But rather than cripple his spirit, Felder pursued a career as a blues singer and songwriter.

He was “a white boy hooked on the blues” from an early age. He enjoyed a successful partnership with fellow songwriter Mort Shuman, and together they churned out a number of hit songs for some of the biggest names of the era, including crooner Andy Williams. It was rather ironic that a man with polio and who couldn’t dance wrote, arguably, what is regarded as one of the greatest dance songs ever. And his song Teenager In Love, recorded by Dion And The Belmonts, captured that sense of abandonment and loneliness.

Pomus wrote many songs for Elvis who in the 60s was contracted to MGM to make several musicals a year. The films required lots of songs, but it eventually became something of a production line and turned into a joyless assignment for Pomus. There was also a period in which he collaborated with the legendary Phil Spector.

This documentary is a loving portrait of Pomus, and directors William Hechter and Peter Miller have assembled a wealth of archival material to detail the life of this overweight Jewish kid who became the most unlikely rock and roll hero. There are also interviews with some of his contemporaries like Ben E King, songwriter Gerry Goffin and rock journalist Dave Marsh, who put his music into perspective. There is also an emotional interview with his former wife Wilma Burke.


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