The Arc & Sprout Touring Film Festival Comes to Tempe This Weekend

The Arc & Sprout Touring Film Festival's aim can be boiled down to just three words: Change the world. With help from Arc of Arizona, Chandler-Gilbert Arc, and the Sprout Film Festival, the second annual edition of the event looks poised to do just that.

Taking place at Tempe Pollack Cinemas on Friday, April 22, the festival's goals include “inspiring audiences, promoting inclusion, and supporting transformative filmmaking as an integral part of social change." It's something its organizers have been passionate about for more than a decade.

Founded in 2003, the Sprout Film Festival has a few basic requirements: Each movie must showcase or focus on the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and “all roles depicting persons with disabilities are played by persons with actual disabilities.”

Sprout is joined in Tempe by Arc of Arizona and Chandler-Gilbert Arc, creating the 2016 Arc & Sprout Touring Film Festival. Similar festivals are happening around the country, including upcoming events in Jamestown, New York; Eugene, Oregon; and Wichita Falls, Texas.

The Arc of Arizona and Chandler-Gilbert Arc's 2016 Sprout Film Festival trailer from Sprout Film Festival on Vimeo.

“First of all, we think these films are absolutely fantastic,” says Jon Meyers, executive director of Arc of Arizona, the organization behind such programs as Wings for Autism and the Disability Policy Seminar.

The festival’s three unique screenings begin at 9:30 a.m. and present films ranging from two to 17 minutes; animated stories; and short and feature-length films in categories like comedy, drama, and documentary. Following each screening, there will be a question and answer session with Anthony Di Salvo, founder and executive director of Sprout.

“The goal is for everyone who attends to walk out of the theater with a different perspective,” says Meyers, as he explains the public at large may have a limited or skewed outlook on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Meyers says the first screening features more of an educational lineup, catering to field trips from charter schools and group homes among other viewers, with the objective of “building an awareness from the earliest age what I/DD is,” Meyers says, adding, “What we learn at an early age tends to be what sticks with us.”

The inaugural Arc & Sprout Touring Film Festival was held in 2015 at ASU West, and saw about 175 attendees – mostly a concentration of adult-care program attendees in the southwest Valley. Meyers says he hopes this year’s festival expands the audience beyond its core community to the general public, and between the new location and combined efforts, the “response has been stupendous.”

However, Meyers says there is already a real awareness of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in metro Phoenix, thanks to a multitude of day programs, state laws, and other factors. “When it comes to care for people with I/DD, the Valley is a unique place,” he says. That awareness could soon be Arizona-wide. “The future is really bright for bringing these films other parts of the state,” he says, “We’d love to do the event in Flagstaff and Tucson.”

Meyers says festival prep began in November 2015, yet “this really needs to be something that we’re working on year-round.” Arc of Arizona plans to start earlier with promotion and awareness for the 2017 Arc & Sprout Touring Film Festival, and to keep growing from there.

“Because there’s no shortage of films,” he says. “There’s great diversity in that catalog.”

The 2016 Arc & Sprout Touring Film Festival is held Friday, April 22, at Pollack Tempe Cinemas, 1825 East Elliot Road. Tickets range from $5 for general admission, $4 each for groups of 10 or more, and $12 for a full festival pass. Screenings are at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 7 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit Arc Arizona online.
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Lauren Cusimano was the Phoenix New Times food editor from 2018 to 2021. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.