Time and death be damned: A UCF alumna was ready to defy all obstacles to see her film brought to the silver screen.
And after nearly a decade in the making, Jenni Gold will display her film "CinemAbility" at the Global Peace Film Festival in Orlando.
The film deals with portrayals of disability in film and the media throughout history.
Gold, a graduate of the UCF's film school's class of '94 and a sufferer of muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscular condition that keeps her confined to a wheelchair, felt that there were scant few movies dealing with disability as more than a narrative device.
From its inception to its final cut, the film took around eight years to complete. The nature of documentaries, Gold said, was one of waiting."It's about the history of disability portrayals in the media, but it's also about the power the media has to influence society's understanding of people who are different in a multitude of ways, whether it's race or religion or sex or disabilities," Gold said. "I started researching it and realized that the story hadn't been told before. Because I knew a lot about it, it seemed like something I couldn't not do."
Even though her position as a member of the Directors Guild of America gave her access to the stars and filmmakers whose interviews feature heavily in the film, she was still subject to their hectic and oftentimes narrow windows of availability.
"One of the things about doing a documentary is that it takes a long time to complete," she said. "We had so many interviews with different studios and stars whose schedules can be all over the place. It's the kind of thing where you have to wait to get the interview and chase someone down to get it done."
The waiting would exact its own toll: In the course of filming, several individuals featured in the film passed away. Most recently, associate producer Danny Murphy died after a long battle with cancer.
A section of the film is devoted in memorial to those who hadn't lived to see the film's premiere.
With the help of actors and directors such as Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Vince Gilligan and more, she sought to bring a deeper understanding to the characters whose lives are compassed by the realities of disability.
"It's been quite sad," Gold said. "He was a great supporter, a talented guy and a great friend. We lost a number of people along the way, Danny being the most recent. We had a memorial in the credits already, but now we need to add more names."
Despite the difficulties, Gold said that the response to the film has been a positive one. Her production company had entered into a partnership with Regal Cinemas and planned to place the film in widespread distribution in 2015.
The Global Peace Film Festival began in 2003 as a means to promote understanding between members of different religions, but has since evolved to encompass a wide range of human rights and advocacy issues.
Nina Streich, the festival's executive director, has been with the organization since its inception and described the many changes — and difficulties — the festival has faced over the years.
"We at the festival aim to have a very expansive idea of what peace is," Streich said. "It may be different for every single person, but it's a really important thing for each and every one of us to look inside of ourselves to define that."
Despite its humanitarian mandate and generous endowment, the festival lost its primary investor just a year after its inception. Streich was left to drum up support in the local community to keep the festival alive.
Now, as the festival enters its 11th year of contiguous operation, Streich said she hopes to expand its programming to include outreach to local schools and community centers.
"The festival really opened up my mind to what global peace really is," said Michele Plant-Kroupa, the festival's director of communications. "It ranges from someone trying to find their own inner peace to learning something that's happening on the other side of the world. It's a great opportunity to become educated with what else is happening in the world."
"CinemAbility" is showing at The Green at Rollins College. Admission is free.
The Global Peace Film Festival runs through Sept. 21 with screenings at Rollins College, Winter Park Library and the Cobb Plaza Cinema Cafe. Admission is $8 per movie; students pay $5 with school ID.