Sydney Film Festival's Screenability puts spotlight on people living with disabilities

Sydney Film Festival is among the world's most prestigious celebrations of cinema, but this year it will also be one of the most diverse.

For the first time, films that have been made and acted by people living with disabilities will be a key part of the program.

It has been made possible by Screenability — an arts initiative in New South Wales to help more people with disabilities break into the film industry.

"I think it's really important that you have creatives with disability in charge of that narrative," Sydney Film Festival's Screenability programmer Sofya Gollan said.

"Because we know what it's like to have a disability so we are best placed to generate those stories from a really authentic place."

Johanna Garvin and Emily Dash are both 26 years old and have cerebral palsy.

Their short film The Milky Pop Kid will premiere at the festival, alongside five other films by filmmakers and actors who live with a disability.

Dash co-wrote the script and also plays the character Jules, a disability consultant who is teaching an able-bodied actor how to play a role with a disability.

The story is a cheeky take on a great frustration of many people living with a disability, who are rarely cast to play themselves on screen.

The Milky Pop Kid involves people with disabilities in roles in front of and behind the camera.

'Most underrepresented group in mainstream media'

"People with disabilities are the most unrepresented group in mainstream media at the moment, and when we are represented it is often done without direct consultation with the disability community and certainly without much regard to authenticity," Dash said.

"So it's no wonder that we have stigmatisation and discrimination of people with disabilities, because if people don't see us on TV and in mainstream media then it's almost like we don't exist.

"I'm hoping that our film will change that in some small way."

Garvin, who co-wrote and directed the film, said she was proud of the final product and the fact Sydney Film Festival was embracing more diverse content.

"Not only actors living with disabilities should be given more opportunities, but other creatives like writers, directors and cinematographers living with disabilities should all be given a chance, because it just adds more diversity to stories and more insights," Garvin said.

"It's fantastic that (our film) is also in the mainstream Sydney Film Festival and not just classified to audiences with disabilities and to organisations that are targeted towards people with disabilities.

"Just to be given the opportunity, it makes people go 'yes we can be included, yes people are listening, yes people are seeing that we are professional, that we have so much to offer', so I think it's just so incredible and so exciting."

Ms Gollan has selected six films, from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France, to be part of the inaugural Screenability program.

The Sydney Film Festival will run from June 7 to 18.