This piece is from our continuing coverage of Sydney Film Festival. Check out the rest of the content here.
Having heard Emily Dash speak on representation of disability in the media, I was keen to watch her short film The Milky Pop Kid at the Sydney Film Festival, and it didn’t disappoint. Milky Pop is a light-hearted look at the topical issue of non-disabled actors playing disabled characters. Emily Dash — USyd alumni, writer, actress and disability advocate — plays Jules, an unpaid consultant to an able-bodied actor (Craig), revealing the myriad of issues that arise in a realistic yet humorous manner.
Milky Pop provides a brief moment of representation — one that is so rarely available for disabled actors and producers — as part of the inaugural Screenability program during the Sydney Film Festival. Focused on increasing the “participation of under-represented groups in the screen industry”, Screenability is a positive step towards showcasing productions by those with a disability, to build diversity within the industry, and Milky Pop only highlights its aims to offer “startling, provocative and authentic cinema”.
It’s this authenticity that allows Milky Pop to shine with interviews capturing the frustration resulting from a lack of monetary compensation for work, and issues such as access and the dehumanisation of those with disabilities. This film shines a light on the broader framework of representation that Dash is so passionate about — a representation constructed on the dichotomy between dismissive portrayals of disabled characters by able-bodied actors, and on the other end of the spectrum, depictions that are unrealistically positive, and equally as limiting.
Milky Pop manages to strike a delicate balance, touching on the chronic under-employment of individuals with disabilities with tenderness, and sincerity. It highlights the plight of disabled workers who are subject to exploitation and a lack of adequate compensation for work, and brings traditionally marginalised creative voices to the forefront.
Whilst there is still such a long way to go in terms of the accurate representation of those with disabilities in the media, the Screenability program is a positive first step, and Milky Pop a golden example of its potential.