CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
CinemAbility:  The Art of Inclusion Movie Poster Image
Earnest Hollywood docu argues for disability inclusion.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 97 minutes

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Positive Messages

Hollywood and other highly-visible media need to do a better job of reflecting the world as it is, which is full of people with a wide range of physical, mental, and cognitive abilities. People with disabilities are regular people just like everyone else, so characters with disabilities should be shown as normal human beings with flaws and strengths, just like everyone has.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lots of actors, directors, writers, and producers with a wide range of abilities talk honestly about how Hollywood and other media can be more inclusive. They recognize and admit ways in which they as individuals can be more inclusive and speculate about how to move the entertainment industry toward a realistic and inclusive balance of characters. Some negative examples, especially in vintage and dated movie and TV clips, show that while a lot of progress has been made, the industry still has a long way to go.


A few brief movie clips show non-gory violence like shoving a wheelchair down a staircase or Luke Skywalker famously getting his hand cut off. A clip of an autopsy briefly shows some blood and a screen image of inside the body's throat. Some scariness for youngest viewers from brief clips like Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera.


Mention that even though people with disabilities are sexual beings just like everyone else and have relationships, marriages, sexual feelings, and desires, screen portrayals of people with disabilities often ignore sexuality altogether. A popular YouTube comedian is shown sitting in a wheelchair with a couple of scantily-clad women fawning over him.


"S--t" in a movie clip; "hell."


Overall it definitely takes Hollywood to task for not being inclusive enough, but it also conveys an inflated sense of self-importance toward movies and TV in particular, and is almost deferential toward the actors and talent interviewed

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few film clips, especially of older "classic" movies, show smoking and lighting a cigar. An extended movie clip shows a man injecting lethal medication into the IV of a quadriplegic patient in a hospital.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion is a documentary about how movies and TV have portrayed people with disabilities historically, how that's changing, and how and why Hollywood should strive to include characters with wide ranges of abilities. Lots of film clips show past examples, and some have brief, non-gory violence and mild scariness. A character says "s--t" in a film clip, and some clips, especially of "classic" movies, show characters smoking. Otherwise there's no real content of concern for younger viewers, but the extensive interviews of adults talking about the movie industry is unlikely to hold the interest of viewers younger than 12. Lots of positive representations of people interviewed with a wide range of abilities, and lots of important issues discussed about how we've historically viewed people with disabilities, what's wrong with that, why having characters with a wide range of abilities and characteristics is important, and how Hollywood as an industry can move forward in a more positive, inclusive direction.

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What's the story?

CINEMABILITY: THE ART OF INCLUSION is a documentary that interviews lots of Hollywood insiders from producers, directors, writers, and actors with a wide range of abilities about how movies and TV have portrayed people with disabilities in the past and how they can be more inclusive in the future. Celebrities interviewed include Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Marlee Matlin, and Danny Woodburn, among many others. It shows Hollywood's historical treatment of disabilities in movies and TV and why it's important to be inclusive, and explores a wide range of issues from why movie's aren't that inclusive, whether it's OK for an actor with no disabilities to portray a character with disabilities, the media's influence on our perception of ourselves and others, and how words and images are used to create the notion of "disability."

Is it any good?

This earnest, thoughtful documentary takes Hollywood to task for its past treatment of disability while offering a clear path forward for industry insiders to make positive changes. CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion backs up their arguments with lots of film clips showing how portrayals of disability have, and often haven't, improved over the course of movie history. Actors, writers, directors, and producers talk about their own experiences casting and portraying disability, successfully and sometimes not-quite-so successfully.

It offers lots of food for thought and will open up new lines of thinking about why inclusion is important, how we perceive disability, and the media's influence on society and our ideas about who we are and what we want to be. Some of the messages get a little repetitive, though, and most of the stars interviewed skew toward teen and adult appeal, making it best for older kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion argues for greater inclusiveness. Why should movies and TV have characters with disabilities? How does the media affect how we see other people?

  • Have you seen many movies, TV, or videos, read any books, or played any games that had characters with disabilities? Was the portrayal positive or negative? Did it change how you thought of, or felt about, people with disabilities? How?

  • How would society benefit if media, especially movies and TV, were more inclusive? Do they have to power to change how we see ourselves and each other?

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