Film Festivals are the lifeblood of filmmakers, giving their work their spotlight on the big screen and bringing together communities. Some, though, can stand for something more. I sat down with Abdool Laltaprasad, the Festival Coordinator of the Sprout Film Festival, to find out what made them stand out. It turns out the Sprout Film Festival is “the first disability film festival in New York and the only film festival exclusively screening films related to intellectual and developmental disabilities in the world,” Abdool says.
In 1979, Sprout started as a company that offered vacations and recreational programs for the disabled. It wasn’t until 1995 that director Anthony DeSalvo organized a five-day program called “Make A Movie.” In the program, the participants would act in a film they wrote with Anthony. In 2003, this grew into the Sprout Film Festival, a festival that only showcased work related to the disabled.
Since then, the festival has grown considerably both in size and recognition. Each year the festival receives a large number of entries spanning multiple genres from around the world. Their films range from “big budget films and very low to no budget personal films that might be made by family members,” Abdool says, “It’s a pretty nice selection.” With about 250 entries this year, Abdool says they have received films “from many different countries as diverse as Belgium to South Africa to Australia.” Sprout also takes its films on tour each year and hit “35 different cities across the US and Canada” the previous year.
Sprout is not only here to help people but also start a conversation “of why artists with intellectual disabilities aren’t having their work put out there.” Sprout’s answer is to get their work out there - not only through the film festival, but also through Sprout’s online distribution platform, Sproutflix. Similar to Netflix, every film from the festival is available on this website. People can “preview a trailer and purchase [the film] for download. We share a lot of the funds with the filmmakers themselves.”
This year, the Sprout Film Festival is moving from the MET to the School of Visual Arts Theater on West 23rd Street. Those interested in being part of the Sprout Film Festival should check out their website: http://www.gosprout.org/film/.