Two years ago, Tara Packard was confined to a nursing home, after health setbacks pushed her out of her apartment. On Sunday, Ms. Packard, 31, was winning awards at the CommUNITY Film Festival, which brought 14 people with developmental disabilities together to show off their best film work.
Lucy Mayer reacts to being presented with her award from Lisa Comes during the 4th Annual CommUNITY Film Fest at the Ohio Theatre in Toledo. Lucy and her husband Donald won in the category of Celebrating Everyday Lives.
“We just try to highlight people’s stories out in the community and let people know that folks are everywhere,” Lisa Comes, one of the event’s organizers, said. “They’re your neighbors, they’re working with you, they’re at the movies and the bowling alley.”
Ms. Packard’s movie, Turn the Upside Downs - Right Side UP, won the Judge’s Choice award, an award that was created specifically to recognize the film.
“There was one movie that really stood out to the judges,” Ms. Comes said during the awards ceremony. “We decided we needed to give it a special award.”
PHOTO GALLERY: CommUNITY Film Fest
The movie told the story of Ms. Packard’s friendship with Rita Zeller. The two met as the youngest residents at a rehabilitation center, starting a friendship that long outlasted Ms. Zeller’s three-week stay following a surgery.
Tara Packard arrives on the red carpet during the 4th Annual CommUNITY Film Fest at the Ohio Theatre in Toledo. She starred in and inspired the short film 'Turn Your Upside Downs-right Side Up.'
“It’s been a ride ever since,” Ms. Packard said.
Regular phone calls and Facebook messages have continued long after Ms. Packard moved back out of the nursing home and into an apartment.
“I had been in a couple different nursing homes and it had gotten me kind of down and out, thinking that there was no way that I would get back to the normal kind of life I had,” Ms. Packard said. She made the film to inspire viewers young and old to find someone to connect with wherever one may be.
“If you do have to go into a nursing home, there’s always somebody that you can confide in and rely on to help you not be so down,” she said.
In all, 14 movies were shown at the festival, which is in its fourth year. Three films were made independently, while the remainder were made in collaboration between an individual with a developmental disability and a volunteer filmmaker.
The festival offers those with disabilities a chance to voice their own views and perspectives, said Lindsay Taylor, a member of the organizing committee who made a film in the first festival.
“It gives people with disabilities a way to speak about people,” she said.
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