Channel 4 frequently airs real-life stories about disability, but their output is often little more than modern day freakshows. After all, this is the channel that has recently brought us The World’s Smallest Man and Half-Ton Dad.
Thankfully, The Shooting Party takes a different approach. The 12-part documentary follows nine deaf and disabled filmmakers as they compete in the process of pitching and directing short films. The aim is a laudable one: to get talented disabled people into programme making.
That said, the show’s not perfect. Like its BBC counterpart Beyond Boundaries, where viewers gawp at disabled people struggling over the Andes mountains, there’s a slightly worthy and patronising “Oooh look, disabled people on TV” feel to the series.
Online disability forums are rife with debate about the programme. There are complaints that only some contestants’ speech is subtitled, when not all the dialogue is accompanied by text. Participants’ online comments also suggest that the footage aired is not representative and that the camera crew engineered conflict.
But it’s easy to carp on about the negatives. Better to applaud Channel 4 and production company Maverick TV for their efforts and relatively progressive outlook in getting disability issues onto our screens. Even if it is at 8.25am.
A highlight was Andrew Bogle’s film Comically Challenged featuring my favourite comedian Tanyalee Davis this week’s programme showcases Shabaaz Mohammed’s film, Underground, that explores a disabled man’s feelings of alienation. Following that, a final episode reveals the overall winner. Irrespective of who comes first, let’s hope the series leads to more diversity onscreen.
• The Shooting Party is on Channel 4 at 8.25am on 22 and 29 June. Watch contestants’ film shorts online
• Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London