GALLERY: ReelAbilities Film Festival

The 2015 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD) and presented by Macy's was all about bringing people together to explore differences and celebrate our shared humanity. For eight days, nearly 4500 people in our region did just that.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival was founded in 2007 in New York City and has spread to 12 cities across the US. Cincinnati was the first city in the nation to host the festival outside of New York and now hosts the second largest festival nationwide, second only to New York. In 2014, the festival's national headquarters moved to Cincinnati where it is being managed by LADD, Inc.

Juried films screened celebrate the lives, stories and art of people who experience disability. The films are wide ranging and touch on issues and topics such as autism, mental health and returning veterans and all of the film screenings benefit local nonprofit organizations that enhance the lives of people with disabilities. More than 500 world class films from around the world were submitted for jurying.

The Festival kicked off with a star studded Premiere Weekend that included Academy Award Winner Marlee Matlin (as the keynote speaker for its Kick Off Celebration Luncheon), other actors - Daryl 'Chill' Mitchell, Kurt Yaeger, Danny Woodburn and John Lawson. Other celebrities who participated as VIPs of the Festival's Premiere Weekend included Nick and Nina Clooney, Cincinnati Reds' Teddy Kremer, Drew Lachey (emcee of the Mingle with the Stars Gala), Q102's Jenn Jordan, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, former snowboard champion Kevin Pearce, and retired Army Ranger Michael Schlitz.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival featured a documentary about SSG Travis Mills, pictured above with Major Laurae Rettig (left) and emcee Sheree Paolello of WLWT (right). Below, Sgt. Mills on stage with a girl whom he invited up after she asked what it was like having his prosthetic legs. 

SSG Travis Mills is one of five surviving quadruple amputee veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was in Cincinnati Thursday, March 5 for the screening at the Cincinnati Museum Center of his documentary, Travis: A Soldier's Story. The screening was sold out, and the film itself was impactful and moving. 

Also at the screening was Major Dr. Laurae Rettig, a critical care doctor who provided medical care to Mills during his air care transport from Kandagar to Bagram, Afghanistan in 2012 after he sustained his injuries. Major Rettig and Sgt. Mills met for the first time the day before the showing in Cincinnati thanks to ReelAbilities.

Mills’ inspirational impact on Major Rettig

As a member of the CCATT team, Major Rettig typically didn’t get to know the stories of the men and women she helped, but Mills had a powerful impact on her.

“Those missions were mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting,” she said. “I wondered if we were doing the right thing by taking extreme measures to save these kids and bring them back home to live a life of disability.”

Major Rettig Rettig followed every story she could find on Mills’ recovery because “it gave me strength and reassurance that what we were doing was really the right thing to do. Travis is one of the big reasons behind my decision/desire to stay in the military after my current four-year commitment, do a Fellowship in critical care, teach at the CSTARS course and continue deploying CCATT teams.”

More about SSG Travis Mills

SSG Travis Mills has a message to the world: “Never give up. Never quit.”

On April 10, 2012, United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne was critically injured on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan by an IED (improvised explosive device) while on patrol, losing portions of both legs and both arms. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries. His strength, courage and will to live have made him an inspirational war hero for veterans and non-veterans alike. 

It was during his recovery at the U.S. Army’s flagship hospital, Walter Reed, where Travis found a passion for inspiring fellow wounded servicemen and women. While there, he consistently toured the facility seeking opportunities to encourage and spend time with fellow wounded soldiers and their families. That inner drive was also the inspiration for his Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit that assists wounded and injured veterans. He also founded the Travis Mills Group, LLC where he consults with and speaks to companies and organizations nationwide inspiring all to overcome life’s challenges and adversity.

The ReelAbilities screening of Travis: A Soldier’s Story was hosted by and benefits 4 Paws for Ability, with a program that trains and places service dogs with veterans who have experienced combat injuries from recent wars. The screening was presented by Fifth Third Bank with special thanks to The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.