As a SEE Invited Professional, Emily Beitiks traveled to Russia to meet with coordinators of the Breaking Down Barriers Film Festival and to attend the Volga Encounters Youth Media Festival. As Coordinator of the Superfest International Disability Film Festival, she gave presentations about strategies to avoid common stereotypes of disability in film.
"When I received the invitation from the Eurasia Foundation to visit Russia and participate in their Social Expertise Exchange (SEE) Program, which has a disability initiative underway, I jumped at the opportunity to learn what is happening on the ground for disability issues. As coordinator for Superfest International Disability Film Festival, which always strives to feature an array of international films, getting to travel abroad and learn about disability in a different national context seemed like an important enough experience to justify the stress of being out of the office nine days, and even more challenging, time away from my two young children and husband.
After a 14-hour flight and a few hours of sleep in a hotel, I headed to the lobby, excited to begin my trip. In addition to four staff people from the Eurasia Foundation’s SEE program, I met four high schoolers and their teacher, all from Geneva, Illinois with no background in disability, who had won SEE’s “30 seconds to Russia” video contest. The students’ trip was paired with mine, as we were all to attend the Volga Encounters Festival in Cheboksary along with 400 Russian youths interested in filmmaking and journalism. While the students were invited to attend as participants, I was there to host a “master class” on disability in film, as well as an evening screening of Superfest’s past films.
But before heading to Cheboksary, we had two packed days in Moscow."
Read more about her adventures in her recap post on the blog of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.