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These locals will see themselves on the big screen

I was honored to be part of ReelAbilities Film Festival. This was the first time any of my work had been screened at a festival. The closing night was a special night. I wrote a short piece to preview the event.

When people see my work, I'm usually never in the same room.

This week, that will change.

Five of my short films will be part of the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival​​, organized by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled.

The best part is that all of the stars of these shorts will be there with me, to see themselves on the big screen.

It will be exciting, albeit a little daunting for all of us. But the people featured in these pieces deserve big-screen attention.

When I was racing bicycles, I met Charles McDonald of Bellevue, who works in information systems at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. We were both riding through tough conditions – in the cold, the mud and the snow. One obvious difference: he had better technical skills than me. The other: he was doing it with one arm.

I wanted to know what was in his mind.

"I'm not afraid to fail," he told me.

I met Sara Bitter of Symmes Twp., and her son Austin, when fashion photographer Rick Guidotti was in town photographing kids living with genetic, physical and behavioral differences.

"There are often a lot of negative feelings that you sense, when you go in public with your child, if they act differently than the other children," Bitter said.

But she sees that changing, in part, because of the power of art.

On a rainy Monday in August, I witnessed dozens of people gather at the Walnut Hills Kroger to celebrate Courttney Cooper, a Kroger bagger, and nationally recognized artist who has autism.

Ryan Mulligan, a University of Cincinnati DAAP assistant professor, whose child also has autism, helped organize the flash mob. It became a scene of a Bollywood-style musical that he co-produced featuring Courttney. Mulligan worries about 4-year-old Hobbs, but says he looks to Courttney as a "possible future for my son."

Mulligan asks himself: "What were the things that were set up that allowed this man to have a happy, full life, with friends and meaningful work?"

The premiere of a piece I produced on the Ayers family of Mason will also play that night. Kara and Adam, who have a form of dwarfism called osteogenesis imperfecta, were questioned by doctors, and even some friends and and family, on their decision to have children.

Some advised against it completely, since their child would have a 75 percent chance of inheriting the same condition. Others got stuck on the simple things: like how they were going to carry a car seat, or chase after a running toddler while in a wheelchair.

"Sometimes you think that people think we're lying to them that we're happy... or like, deep down we're craving to be somebody else: to walk and to navigate the world on two feet, and reach the top cabinet. It's just incorrect," said Adam, who works at the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

The Ayers family challenges us to examine certain government policies and belief systems regarding disability. In the piece, which Eli calls, "Eli comes to America," and his new 4-year-old sister Hannah calls, "Hannah gets a big brother," we travel with them to China as they meet Eli for the first time.

Also being shown is a piece I produced called "Believing in Hope." It takes us on a mother's journey to find help for her daughter, as she realizes how her own depression is affecting her 7-year-old, and shows the importance of community, friends and family in lifting us all up.

Local filmmaker Katie Sammons of Northside will be showing her charming silent film featuring Shroder High School sophomore Destiny Stanford, who is deaf.

These aren't the only stories that will be told. The festival has brought in award-winning films from across the world. But, the closing night of the festival focuses on Cincinnatians: ReelCincy will feature eight short films about local people Sat., March 7, at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

In my job I'm constantly amazed, inspired, moved. And it's because of the people in this great city. They've invited me into their homes, allowed me to witness some of the most important and intimate events in their lives, and have helped me to better understand the world I live in.

This week, they are inviting you to do the same.

Carrie Cochran is a three-time Emmy-award winning visual journalist at The Enquirer, producing still photography and short documentary films for

Wed., March 4 - 7:30pm, Kenwood Theater - "Not Afraid to Fail' will be screened before "Wampler's Ascent," a documentary about Steve Wampler, a teacher and father with cerebral palsy, who uses only his arms to to climb the famous El Capitan Mountain in Yosemite. Trailer: Steve Wampler will be there that night, and proceeds go to Taylor High School in Cleves.

Thurs., March 5 - 7pm, Contemporary Art Center - "Trading Supermodels" on Rick Guidotti will be screened before "On Beauty" and "Getting Up." "On Beauty" challenges perceptions of beauty through the stories of people with genetic syndromes and disabilities across the globe. In Getting Up, Renowned graffiti artist TemptOne loses his creative voice, after being paralyzed by Lou Gehrig's disease. Through technology and the help of his crew, he is able to create art, write again – and regain his street cred. Trailer: Rick Guidotti will be there that night, and proceeds benefit Visionaries + Voices.

Sat., March 7 - 7pm, Cincinnati Art Museum - Five Enquirer short films will be screened along with three others from the community. The night is hosted by The Enquirer's Michael McCarter and Project Runway's Justin LeBlanc and benefits Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. All films will be close-captioned. Reception to follow. Trailer:

Tickets for each night are $10, and each night benefits a different local nonprofit organization. For more information and to purchase tickets:

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