[FOUNTAIN]Film Festivals and the Disabled

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[FOUNTAIN]Film Festivals and the Disabled

The JoongAng Ilbo published an article about Jon Joon-soo, professor of business administration at Sogang University, on Sept. 25. Mr. Jon has taught disabled students the English language and his story touched the hearts of many readers.

Although foreign language proficiency is often a mandatory requirement for employment, students in wheelchairs could not enter the buildings of language institutes easily to attend classes, Mr. Jon said. That was why he began teaching English himself. It is surprising to realize that there are so many obstacles for the disabled in our society - more than expected.

In his movie, "Born on the Fourth of July," the director Oliver Stone featured a disabled man whose spine was damaged in the Vietnam War. In one of the scenes, the hero felt sexual desire but could not satisfy it due to his unresponsive body. Through the scene, viewers could feel the agony of the disabled person.

It's likely that not many handicapped people saw that movie in a theater. The narrow stairways and escalators in most movie theaters are like fortress walls to the disabled. In fact, some of the disabled cannot watch any movie easily. The hearing-disabled can watch foreign movies with subtitles, but Korean films are not subtitled. The disabled can watch movies on videotape at home, but that cannot be compared to the fun of enjoying a movie on a large screen.

The Locarno International Film Festival, held in the southern Swiss town, is very popular among the disabled. Major festival entries are shown at the Piazza Grande in the center of the city. Since the movies are shown outdoors, the event is easily accessible to persons in wheelchairs.

Since there are three official languages - German, French and Italian - and Romansch is also used by some Swiss, all movies at the film festival are shown with subtitles in at least two of those languages - or sometimes all four. Therefore, many people with hearing disability from Germany, France and Italy spend their holidays in Locarno during the festival.

In Korea, the Persons with Disabilities Film Festival (www.pdff.co.kr) is held in the middle of October, and the event celebrated its second anniversary at the Art Sonje Center in Seoul. The organizing committee also provided Korean subtitles for Korean movies. Narrative descriptions of some movies were provided to the blind and large wheelchair areas were arranged.

An Arab proverb was posted on the bulletin board of an Internet site of supporters of the PDFF: "If you have much to share, then share your wealth. If you have only a little, share your heart."

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chae In-taek

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