Sydney Film Festival has gone virtual this year, and as with so many of our arts organisations, this move has sparked new collaborations and community-minded initiatives that would not be in effect without 2020’s exceptional circumstances.

Bonus exclusive material, Q&A sessions and filmmaker introductions are all available this festival, as well as collaborations with SBS On Demand, and We Are One global film festival. Plus, the festival has never been more accessible.

One initiative to come out of the festival is Screenability, a program dedicated to showcasing the diverse voices of disability-identifying people both in front of and behind the camera.

Urban Village caught up with award winning writer and comedian Nina Oyama, and her co-director, actor and former Youth Paralympian Adam Bowes, ahead of the premiere of their short film Diving In, showing as part of Screenability this festival season.

The original vision was an American Pie style web-series starring Bowes. The idea got rejected, but fortuitously, the opportunity then arose to morph the idea of a funny teenage web-series into a short film script.

“Adam came to me and was like, there are no stories out there about love between people of different abilities, that show them on equal footing,” recalls Nina.

“We both watched Me Before You, which is a love story between an able-bodied actor playing a man in a wheelchair – yuck – and an able-bodied person in a carer role. The whole thing was so condescending. We really wanted show equality and love between people with different abilities.”

Also appearing in the Screenability program are short films from multi-disciplinary artist and writer, Emily Dash, and award-winning theatre director Anthea Williams.

“It’s really imperative that you have disability-identifying film makers telling their stories, because that’s the only way to ensure truth, rather than an able-bodied perspective of what it means to have a disability,” says Nina.

The main character’s disability does play a role in the film, but it is not a hindrance, nor does it define him. The film’s focus is his gut-wrenching, debilitating crush – a feeling that every audience member will undoubtedly empathise with.

Diving In is a short film about equal love, and about disability not being a huge part of that,” says Adam.

Access Diving In plus a range of bonus behind the scenes material, online now at sff.org.au.