CommUNITY Film Fest Celebrates Individuals With Disabilities

The stars of the films in the Promoting Inclusion category at the CommUNITY Film Fest Sunday await the opening of the envelope. Lisa Comes, organizer of the festival, stands next to Schyler Young, who won the category for her movie, Faith, Family and Friends. PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNSHINE COMMUNITIES

BY ROBIN ERB | SPECIAL TO THE MIRROR  — On Oscar Sunday this week, it was local talent who walked the red carpet at the Maumee Indoor Theater as 14 short films premiered at the fifth annual CommUNITY Film Festival.

With popcorn and sweet treats in hand, more than 300 people settled in for big-screen stories that covered the artistic, the biographical, a love story and even a Hollywood-sized superhero duel with heart-pounding sound and lighting effects.

Each of the vignettes starred or were produced by men, women and children with developmental disabilities.

The film fest was an idea hatched at the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities as a way to “show our community that folks with developmental disabilities are thriving,” said Lisa Comes, a service and support specialist with the county board and the event’s organizer.

“Not only are they thriving, they have much to share with the rest of us,” she said.

The films were judged in five categories. Additionally, one film was honored as the Best Amateur Film overall. In that, three coworkers who package coffee for Georgette’s Grounds & Gifts in Maumee shared their journeys of finding their voices so they can make bigger decisions in their own lives.

Several films starred people who have difficulty communicating or moving around as most of us do, and whose stories inspired and brought people together in extraordinary ways. 

One film, Spring, was produced by a single person, Chris Reid, who compiled a colorful collection of spring flowers he’d taken on his smartphone. He hopes to one day use his talent behind a lens to work with professional filmmakers.

“I love photography and taking pictures. I especially like the way the light reflects off of different things in nature,” he said.

The event has grown each year, and this year took on an even more polished edge after organizers teamed up with FilmToledo, a nonprofit organization that reached out to local filmmakers as partners to those who wanted to make a film, but needed the technical help. Three of the movies were part of this “professionally assisted” category.

“One of our goals with our film commission is to up the bar as far as the quality of local films and events to showcase our city and this definitely fits the bill,” said FilmToledo’s president and executive director Michael DeSanto.

“It’s such a worthy cause,” he added. “It brings attention to the city, the film community and most importantly, these talented individuals who have stories they want to share.”

The following are 2019 CommUNITY Film Fest winners:

• Best Independently Made Amateur Video: Spring by Chris Reid.

• Best Movie Celebrating Our Community: The Greatest Showman, by Lyndon Parsons, edited by Brandon Dudley and Candice Landrdum.

• Best Movie Promoting Inclusion: Faith, Family and Friends, by Schyler Young, edited by Lisa Comes.

• Best in Celebrating Everyday Lives: Life Is Good, by Pam Williams, edited by Hollie Fortman and Candice Landrum.

• Best Overall Amateur Movie: My Voice, My Choice, by DeAndre McBride, Toshay Roberts and Justin Hastings, edited by Rachel Adams.

• Best Professionally Assisted Video: Wolvereem vs. Silvertooth, Matt Foster, edited by Matt Erman and Capture 1 Studios.

Learn more about The CommUNITY Film Fest at

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