Sprout Film Festival plants Baltimore roots
Freshman Ryan Permison was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when he was 11, and while the disorder sometimes interferes with his linguistic skills, he said he likes to be active and social.
“Even though I’m on the spectrum, I have the ability to speak in front of people… I like doing it, it’s a lot of fun,” Permison said.
Sunday, March 3, Permison introduced the Sprout Film Festival, a showcasing of multiple films involving people with developmental disabilities. Two screenings were presented at the West Village Commons Ballrooms.
The festival started in 2003 and occurs annually in New York City, according to executive and founder of Sprout, Anthony Di Salvo.
Other agencies across the U.S. and Canada raise money to bring the festival to their cities, and screen films from the festival library, which consists of about 200 works. Towson’s screening was the festival’s debut in Baltimore.
“A lot of people have a block when it comes to films about disabilities,” Di Salvo said. “They associate it with being depressing … whereas our films are more uplifting, they’re fun, they’re entertaining, they’re memorable, but people don’t associate that, so trying to get them in here is the big part. Once they’re here, they always have an amazing time.”
Baltimore was one of 40 cities that the touring festival group visited this year. The Arc of Baltimore and Towson’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism collaborated to sponsor the Towson festival.
“I love it because this is the first time we’re in Baltimore and … so many people in this field don’t know these films exist, and they’re very touched by the films,” Di Salvo said.
The films range in genre, from comedy to documentary, but they all carry a common thread — they give viewers a personal look at the lives of people with disabilities, Di Salvo said.
“It always gives people a view of people with developmental disabilities that isn’t usually seen,” he said.
Sophomore Stephanie Kwon said that she hopes that the films will dispel misconceptions that Towson students may hold about people with disabilities.
“I definitely think this is what is needed to let people know not to overlook someone just because of how they’re acting,” she said.
About 200 people attended the Towson screening.
Rhonda Greenhaw, director of Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, said she hopes to bring the festival back to Towson.
“We would really love to have this happen every year and grow and hopefully incorporate some films by Towson students … and the work from the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism perhaps,” Greenhaw said.
Permison, who said the festival means a lot to him, hopes that it will enlighten audience members about people with disabilities.
“No matter what you go through in life, whatever disability you may have, it shouldn’t define you, it’s just a little piece of who you are,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed in life, it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your dreams.”