Disabled Britain on Film
From a rare portrait of the first spokesperson of the UK disability rights movement to a reimagining of becoming blind, this selection of mainly fictional films covers a range of representations of being disabled. Crucially, some of the films are authored by disabled people themselves, while others feature non-disabled actors taking on the role of a disabled character.
The idea of 'cripping up' - the equivalent of 'blacking up' - where a non-disabled actor takes on the role of a disabled person, is gaining ground in current debates about how disabled people want to be represented in film. Reflecting on the Oscar-winning performances of films like My Left Foot raises questions about what a rebooted version might look like, and whether the film industry needs to challenge itself about how to cast disabled actors into these kind of roles.
Graham Findlay (disability equality consultant)
Please note: titles in this collection may contain language or other content that reflect views prevalent in their time but that may cause offence today. They are included here for historical reasons and are in no way endorsed by the BFI or its partners.
Notes on Blindness
Documentary201587 minsDirector: James Spinney
James Spinney and Peter Middleton's highly original documentary uses cinematic interpretations and textured sound design to express a ‘world beyond sight.’
Drama195293 minsDirector: Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick's drama about a deaf girl and her unstable family life is remarkably unsentimental while still packing an emotional punch.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Documentary201483 minsDirector: Edward Lovelace
A moving and haunting account of singer Edwyn Collins’s long and difficult recovery from a stroke.
My Left Foot
Biopic1989103 minsDirector: Jim Sheridan
Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his extraordinary performance as Christy Brown, the disabled Dubliner who became a writer and painter.
Power in Our Hands
Documentary201575 minsDirector: Angela Spielsinger
Ground-breaking documentary that uses archive film to tell the story of the British Deaf community’s fight for civil rights.
Trying to Kiss the Moon
Animation & Artists Moving Image199496 minsDirector: Stephen Dwoskin
Autobiographical film by the veteran disabled experimental filmmaker, Steve Dwoskin.
Drama197433 minsDirector: Alan Parker
Mollie has been left with highly sensitive hearing after an attack. In her boarding house room she "witnesses" a murder by hearing strange footsteps.
Medical drama193991 minsDirector: Paul L. Stein
Paul L. Stein's gripping and romantic The Outsider features a famed osteopath (George Sanders) who treats a young disabled woman (Mary Maguire) with his unconventional methods - only to fall in love with her.
The Raging Moon
Drama1970112 minsDirector: Bryan Forbes
Sensitive and ground-breaking romance between couple who are both wheelchair users, played by Malcolm McDowell and Nanette Newman.
Documentary195813 minsDirector: Rollo Gamble
Daniel Farson meets people affected by polio in a series of studio interviews and a filmed report with a man paralysed after contracting the disease.
Drama198273 minsDirector: Stephen Frears
Ian McKellen stars in Stephen Frears' TV play as Walter, a man with learning difficulties who's put in an institution after the death of his mother.
Walter and June
Drama198365 minsDirector: Stephen Frears
Ian McKellen and Stephen Frears reunite for Walter and June, the sequel to their earlier TV play Walter. The titular character (McKellen) meets a young mother (Sarah Miles) who is suicidally depressed; the two begin to support one another to cope with life in a closed institution.