"Chipping Away at the Misrepresentations of Disability": Meet Superfest 2017 Featured Filmmaker Reid Davenport

A side profile picture of documentarian Reid Davenport looking into his film camera lends. Documentarian Reid Davenport

Reid Davenport is an award-winning documentarian whose films focus on people with disabilities. The founder and co-director of Through My Lens, Davenport has been creating films and public speaking for five years. As a man with cerebral palsy, his hope is to inspire disabled students to share their personal stories, as he has done. He says that “there is a tremendous space for amateur videos now on YouTube and social media and a few people with disabilities have already grasped that fact and taken back the narrative and that’s what we want to encourage, take back and start to chip away at the misrepresentations of disability.” Reid’s short film On Beat, co-directed by Cheng Zhang, follows Larry and Tanisha Cotton, a Deaf couple with three hearing children. The family uses music as a means of bonding and expressing themselves. Davenport and Zhang discovered this family with another story in mind, having heard about Uber's efforts to hire Deaf drivers (Larry is a driver), but once he came across the Cotton’s gospel group, he knew he had a different story to tell. A black family of five smiles closely together on a couch, each signs a letter that spells out cotton The Cotton Family featured in Davenport's film "On Beat"

Davenport and co-director Cheng Zhang collaborated by playing off each other’s strengths. Because “her strength was shooting,” and Davenport “was more involved in the interviewing,” they “balanced each other quite well.” Davenport also brought a disability aesthetic to the film, as he has in other projects as well, by “shying away from medicalization of the disability, trying not to make a portrait a pathological impairment, instead focusing on the social impact of being disabled.” The main thing Davenport wants other filmmakers to know is that with the proliferation of social media “the authority over the audience that they have is unprecedented so they need to tell their stories.” In order to share said stories, filmmakers can embrace the disability aesthetic and know that it is okay to let the disability in. Watch the trailer to On Beat below and buy your tickets to catch it at Superfest today: [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drlVa7UzEJM]