Busting the Bias, celebrating and championing Disabled talent

The BFI today announces the full programme for the 2023 edition of BUSTING THE BIAS, a celebration of Disabled talent, disability storytelling and a call for better inclusive practices within the film industry.

Taking place at BFI Southbank from 3 – 5 March, the weekend’s events will include a series of screenings, talks, and presentations prompting conversations around the current state of access and inclusion in the film industry, as well as issues such as authentic representation on both sides of the camera, access and inclusion for Disabled professionals working in film, and access within film exhibition. Tickets are on sale now for just £5 per event, while numerous short films will also be available to watch free on BFI Player. All screenings will be presented with descriptive subtitles for the D/deaf and people experiencing hearing loss, with audio description also available, as well as live-captioning and BSL-English interpretation for introductions and talks.

BUSTING THE BIAS will open on Friday 3 March with an evening celebrating Disability visibility and filmmaking. In an opening keynote speech, Kyla Harris, who takes over as chair of the BFI’s Disability Screen Advisory Group (DSAG) later this year, will talk about the future aims and ambitions of the group and her vision for creating intersectional approaches to Disability alliance. This will be followed by an illustrated talk with filmmaker Ella Glendining, whose debut feature IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? (2023) has just premiered at Sundance Film Festival and will be released at a later date. Born with a disability so rare that no reliable statistics for it exist, in her film, Glendining wonders if there is anyone who can share the experience of living in a body like hers. This simple question, one which non-disabled people so often take for granted, leads to a journey to not only others who live like her, but to the realisation that meeting them changes how she sees herself in the world, as well as many surprises on this journey. This exciting talk will shine a light on the themes explored within this documentary and Ella’s experience as a disabled filmmaker.

Closing the session will be ECLECTIC, a specially shorts programme curated by deafblind access consultant Charlie Little, exploring a range of genres and Disability storytelling. Titles screening will be IMAGINATION (Jemima Hughes, 2016), MY EYES ARE UP HERE (Nathan Morris, 2022), CALL US CRIPTIC (Kyla Harris, Ella Glendining, Jessi Gutch, 2020), LOUDER IS NOT ALWAYS CLEARER (Jonny Cotsen, 2021) and VERISIMILITUDE (David Proud, 2020). All the films in the shorts programme will also be available to view free on BFI Player for UK-wide audiences from 3 March, with a pre-recorded Q&A with the filmmakers available to watch on BFI YouTube.

Events taking place at BFI Southbank on 4 March will include REIMAGINED CINEMA, an immersive workshop in the BFI Reuben Library with guest speakers presenting and demonstrating innovative uses of technology which can help audiences with access needs to experience film in cinemas. Also taking place in the BFI Reuben Library will be a Relaxed Screening of SHY RADICALS (Tom Dream, 2020), the story behind award-winning artist, activist and author Hamja Ahsan’s book and satirical manifesto which calls for shy, quiet, and introverted people to unify and overthrow Extrovert-Supremacy. Hamja Ahsan will be in conversation about his book and the documentary after the screening.

The final day of BUSTING THE BIAS will kick off with NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US, a celebration of the BFI’s Disability Screen Advisory Group’s first cohort of leaders: Andrew MillerDavid Proud and Kim Tserkezie who will shortly step down after 5 years in post. Hosted by ITV Creative Diversity Partner

Samantha Tatlow, these disabled screen pioneers will reflect on the highlights of their own careers in film and TV, as well as the advisory group’s innovative and influential work at the BFI; from the Press Reset campaign to the creation of the world’s first Disability and Visible Difference Panel.

The weekend will end with a screening of the ground-breaking documentary I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE (Reid Davenport, 2023), followed by a pre-recorded Q&A withthe director of the film, Reid Davenport, hosted by BFI Disability Equality Lead Clare Baines. Shot entirely from the Davenport’s perspective, from his wheelchair and his two feet, this film explores the legacy of the Freak Show when a circus comes to town and confronts societal perspectives around Disability in an intimate and thought-provoking way.

Andrew Miller MBE, outgoing Chair of the BFI Disability Screen Advisory Group, said, “I’m immensely proud of all the progress on access and inclusion that our Group has achieved since 2018 that will help ensure the next generation of disabled talent do not face the same barriers so many of us have experienced in our screen careers. I’d like to thank all the brilliant disabled creatives who have contributed to this work over the last five years and everyone at the BFI for facilitating our journey. But there is much more to do and I wish my successor Kyla Harris strength to achieve even greater equity for disabled people in the UK film industry.”

Mel Hoyes, Head of Inclusion at the BFIsaid: “At the BFI, in partnership with our Disability Screen Advisory Group, we work to address barriers for disabled talent and audiences alike. As part of that, Busting the Bias has become a valued annual fixture in our calendar and we’re excited to again showcase Disabled talent at the BFI Southbank. We’re hoping to continue important discourse around access to the industry as well as cultivating an engaged audience looking for authentically representative stories.”

Clare Baines, the BFI’s Disability Equality Lead, added: 

“Busting the Bias is an access-first intersectional celebration bursting with authentic representation. It has been incredibly fulfilling to curate this thought provoking programme alongside access consultant Charlie Little.”

Busting the Bias launched in 2017 to call on industry to improve access for Disabled talent and for content creators to stop comprising on authentic on-screen representation of Disabled people. Becoming a public event for the first time in 2021, Busting the Bias continues with this core mission, while celebrating and showcasing work created by Disabled talent to audiences.