Festival for dyslexic filmmakers

Heightened sensitivity to sensory input is believed to give artists a creative edge

Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 — By Emma Snaith

21-DYSPLA Ruby- Emma Allen

Ruby by Emma Allen was among the films screened at the festival in King’s Cross

FEATURING the likes of Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, the elite cadre of dyslexic filmmakers are a formidable group.

It is thought that the learning difficulty lends itself to greater creativity and the ability to think in pictures. Celebrating “unique storytelling prowess” of dyslexic and “neurodivergent” filmmakers, the world’s first dyslexic film festival, the DYSPLA International Moving Image Festival, held its 12th annual event in Camden this month.

More than 20 films were screened in the King’s Cross Crypt gallery, including the work of the pioneering experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage.   All of the films were played simultaneously in the space and were only made audible via a radio transmitter to mimic how information is processed by neurodivergent people. Neurodivergence is roughly defined as having a developmental disorder or mental illness.

Lennie Varvarides, the founder of the festival, said: “Dyslexic and neurodivergent people receive information at a much more rapid rate than linear thinkers, so we wanted to recreate this feeling of sensation overload. We tried to give a sense of how difficult it can be to concentrate if you are neurodivergent – for example the feeling of sitting in a busy classroom and not being able to listen to your teacher. Being dyslexic or neurodivergent is usually seen as a disadvantage. But it’s this heightened sensitivity to sensory input that allows many neurodivergent people to think so creatively” .

Lennie Varvarides

Ms Varvarides has dyslexia herself and, after graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2006, she wanted to explore why so many filmmakers and creatives are neurodivergent. “It was just a gut feeling at first,” he said. “But when I found out more about the industry, I discovered that the links between creativity and neurodivergence is a huge subject. “We want DYSPLA to be at the forefront of this debate and push for further academic research on the subject.”

Highlights of this year’s Arts Council-funded festival included an immersive video installation featuring smoke, light and moving images by dyslexic artist D-Fuse, and an industry panel discussion exploring the “dyslexic aesthetic”. After drawing a record crowd of more than 200 people, the DYSPLA team are looking to host more events across the country in the future.

To learn more about the DYSPLA International Moving Image Festival, visit their website.

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