This year’s Easterseals Disability Film Challenge drew a record-breaking 95 entries and produced one clear breakout star: Sommer Carbuccia, a right above-knee amputee from Brooklyn. Carbuccia produced and starred in Mac & Cheese, which won top awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Editor.
He was far from the only amputee filmmaker to shine in the 2022 Challenge. Rachel Handler, a previous Challenge award winner, earned finalist nominations in two categories for Andy & Kaliope, while Melanie Waldman (also a prior Challenge honoree) co-starred in ILY, which took home the prize for Best Awareness Campaign. (See details below.)
But Mac & Cheese stood out for its technical prowess, visual appeal, and unpredictable storyline. Carbuccia ties it all together with a winning performance as Manny, a fridge-raiding slacker with a weakness for his roommates’ comfort food. When his character flaws are called out, it triggers Manny’s compulsion to fix what’s “broken” in him. The corresponding cycle of mourning, regret, and self-doubt will be familiar to many people who’ve experienced limb loss. It’s mostly played for laughs in Mac & Cheese, but these emotions can cause serious distress in real life—not only for amputees, but for anyone who’s unsure of their place in the world.
That’s surely one reason the judges looked on Carbuccia’s film with such favor. Mac & Cheese is ultimately about much more than disability. It’s about humanity. Total runtime is 5:27, and you can watch it on YouTube here.
A gifted actor from the Dominican Republic, Carbuccia has scored a handful of TV roles (most notably as Eric Jackson on Season 5 of Riverdale) and won critical raves for his portrayal of limb-different characters on stage. In 2018 he received the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ prestigious True West Award after delivering what one reviewer called “the most vulnerable, devastating moments of the theatre year” in a drama called Paper Cut. Carbuccia’s most recent stage project is Other World, a musical that premiered this spring at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, DE.
Here are a few other amputee-themed films from this year’s Easterseals Challenge that are worth your attention. You can see all 95 films at this link.
ILY: Get a handful of funny, smart women with disabilities together, supply wine and good food, and the conversation’s bound to be lively and sharp. ILY won the award for Best Awareness Campaign. Run time 3:58. Watch here.
Andy & Kaliope: Written and directed by Rachel Handler, this touching film calls attention to a little-known fact: Among children waiting for adoption in the United States, between 30 and 50 percent have a disability. A young disabled actor named Jai Ram Srinivasan gives an irresistible performance as Andy. Run time 5:51. Watch here.
Laundry Day and the Bionic Blonde: Featuring the highly decorated actor and playwright David Harrell, this comedy turns gender roles and ableist tropes upside down. Sparkling dialogue, as you’d expect from Harrell. Run time 5:14. Watch here.
Souls of My Feet: In this film about “invisible disabilities,” a woman hides her congenital limb difference so well that her friends all treat her as if she’s able-bodied—which is kinda good and kinda not. Francine Daniels shines in the lead role. Run time 5:31. Watch here.