The Culture Relax association offers film and live performance sessions for people with mental disabilities to remove barriers to their access to culture.

The light gradually goes out, the sound is less loud than usual. A movie session with Culture Relax is neither quite the same nor quite different from another. But it welcomes an audience often forgotten about culture: people with disabilities.

Created in 2005 under the name of Ciné-ma différence - first for the cinema then since 2018 for the live show - the association Culture Relax wants, as its name suggests, relax the atmosphere and create a friendly and warm atmosphere in the cultural places for people with autism, multiple disabilities, with an intellectual disability, cognitive, mental disorders or Alzheimer’s disease… For these people, going to a cinema or theatre is often a challenge. “ Some go with the ball in their stomach and others forbid it for fear of being confronted with the eyes of other spectators », explains Amar Nafa, General Manager of Culture Relax. Their disability leads to “atypical” behaviours such as the need to verbalize what they see or to come and go in the room.

Diversified programming, shows unchanged


For them, the association offers performances unchanged but with relaxed codes, open to all and inscribed in the programming of the cultural place. « From the very beginning, we didn’t want to do something that was only for children, but that everyone could enjoy, insists Amar Nafa. Everyone can express themselves in their own way, by vocalizing, entering, leaving, commenting on what they see. » To set up these film sessions or live performances, Culture Relax works directly with cultural venues to help them welcome people with disabilities and make their shows accessible. Training sessions are set up for teams on the relationship to this type of audience.

For the cinema, a work on sound was conducted for people with autism disorders suffering from hearing loss – an abnormally low noise tolerance threshold – and on the light, the room not being plunged into the dark at once. For the live show, a work is done upstream on the best placement of people in the room. On D-Day, mediation tools are available to spectators, such as documents written according to a specific protocol: the FALC protocol, “easy to read and understand”. A team is present at each performance to help people settle in and reassure them and a relaxation space allows them to get away from the show in case of emotional overload. Finally, there are technical adjustments: no commercials or trailers in the cinema to focus the attention of the spectator and a small clip, which summarizes the principle of the session, is broadcast.

Communication and Understanding

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Communication to other spectators is the key to these Relax sessions that always take place in good conditions. « We inform the general public so as not to have a reaction of misunderstanding: when we have the information in advance, we do not ask ourselves any question and we accompany the representation in a positive way. This allows for discussions about disability and difference that are not often discussed ” said Amar Nafa. “This good communication also provides relief for people with disabilities and their companions. “ The first time, they are a little suspicious and then they come back a little quieter. They know they’re welcome and they’re not going to be the focus of attention. »

Last season, 69 cinemas took part in 428 screenings that attracted 15,000 spectators, including 6,000 concerned with disability. For live entertainment, Culture Relax is in partnership with seven cultural venues in Île-de-France and April Shakespeare, a theatre biennial dedicated to the English playwright in Vincennes. About 20 performances took place during the year. “ All these places organize inclusive sessions that allow people with mental disabilities to attend the shows in the most welcoming conditions possible Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said during her greetings to cultural actors on 16 January.

Upcoming shows organized by Culture Relax


In February, Culture Relax screenings cover four shows – not to mention the many film screenings at the cinema. At the Cité de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris, the concert One against One (1er February) is freely inspired by the characters of Orpheus and Eurydice, imagining the life of Eurydice during his stay in Hell. A show that combines circus, theatre and live music.

On February 5, the puppet show Our valley, at the Théâtre Jean-Vilar in Vitry-sur-Seine (photo), is the latest creation of the Arnica company. At the heart of the story: an imaginary valley that we cross over thirty years with its different human inhabitants, plants and animals.

The Théâtre Dunois in Paris hosts a funny bazaar on February 15 with Saccadit, a dance show. Finally at the Maison de la Radio, the Japanese tale Kitsune, the forest of foxes comes to life in concert on February 18. The Kitsune - these supernatural foxes who acquire a new tail every hundred years with fabulous powers - cross the ancestral religions of Japan. Theatre author Kevin Keiss offers a dive into the world of these legends, popularized by manga and video games.

Reservations for these shows must be made beforehand with the partner structure in order to take into account the specific needs of each person.