WSW: When Hollywood Nails Movie Portrayals of People With Disabilities

Mar 14, 2019

Credit WMUK

Learn how free showings of the award-winning romantic comedy "Keep the Change" about a couple with autism is being used by Disability Network Southwest Michigan as part of a lunchtime discussion and film series to encourage more inclusive environments. Screenings are in Kalamazoo (March 18), Battle Creek (March 26), and St. Joseph (March 27). All showtimes are 11:30 a.m.


Miranda Grunwell is community educator coordinator at Disability Network Southwest Michigan.
Credit Earlene McMichael | WMUK

The agency launched the Lunch and Learn Movie Series last year. On today's WestSouthwest news & public affairs show, WMUK's Earlene McMichael finds out more about the initiative from Miranda Grunwell, community educator coordinator at Disability Network. This year's series began in February with the documentary "Intelligent Lives" about young adults with intellectual disabilities.

Next up is "Keeping the Change," which Grunwell said she selected for several reasons. Firstly, the main characters are played by actors who, in fact, have autism themselves. 

"That's really important right now in the disability community -- that people with disabilities are being picked for the films (about them) and not people without disabilites being played in there," Grunwell said.

She also likes how the movie stays away from stereotypes. It won Best U.S. Narrative Feature and Best New Narrative Director at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017.

"Usually people with disabilites in films are played as the bad guy or sad or tragic," she explained. "Whereas, this film is really about two individuals living their life and falling in the love, which you know a lot of young people want. That's what they dream of, falling in love.

"So it's kind of that romantic comedy. They meet each other in a support group for people with autism, so there's a lot of other people with disabilities in this film as well. I just like how it portrays how disability is natural, and these are just two people doing things in life that we all do." 

Hear the shorter interview

The film screenings are free of charge, open to the public and include lunch, but pre-registration is suggested for a headcount. Click here for more information, such as locations of viewings. Organizers ask that attendees refrain from wearing fragrances for the well-being of those with scent sensitivities. 

In April, Disability Network will show "Infinitely Polar Bear" in Kalamazoo on April 17, in St. Joseph on April 24 and in Battle Creek on April 30.

The movie is based on a true story about a father raising children alone while recovering from a manic breakdown. It earned Mark Ruffalo an Oscar nomination in 2015 for Best Actor in the Musical or Comedy category.

WestSouthwest is produced by WMUK, the public radio station licensed to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. It airs Mondays & Thursdays at 7:34 a.m., 9:34 a.m. & 4:20 p.m. You can subscribe to the WestSouthwest podcast through Apple itunes and Google Music. There you can leave a rating and write a review.