Autism in America World Premier – Day Two of the TCFF 2015

MV5BMTUyMzMyMjQ1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIxNTkzMTE@._V1__SX1037_SY469_My second film on Day 2 of the TCFF is the documentary Autism in America.  This film was written and directed by Zac Adams, and I was fortunate to have spoken with him briefly earlier in the day.

He told me that the reason for the film was to take away the misconceptions, to help people understand what the disease is about, and to create an awareness in the general public.

Both  Adams and his producer Tim Vandesteeg were on hand for this world premier. I saw the 5:00 PM showing, and we were told that the 8:30 PM showing was a near sellout.

In the words of Jatin Satia, the Executive Director of the TCFF, there’s only a small handful of remaining available seats.

So how was the film?


First off – it is a true documentary. There is a narrator, Chandra Wilson from Grey’s Anatomy, but we hear her only sparsely. We see nothing of the filmmakers. I specifically asked in the Q & A post screening if this was by design, by accident, or as they went along in making the film it just evolved that way?

Zac Adams answered me by saying – We are not journalists. We have no interest in appearing in front of the cameras. This film is not about us.


What we saw was families with young autistic children, and a few autistic adults. We even met Joe Sullivan and his mother. Sullivan was one of three autistic people that Dustin Hoffman modeled his portrayal of Raymond Babbitt (Rainman) after. Sullivan’s mother was also in the film.

She told us a tale of how quickly young Sullivan assembled a jig-saw puzzle.  She said she was so astounded by the speed that she turned the puzzle over and asked her son to assembly the picture again – this time with all pieces face down. And in almost the same time he did the reassembly.

But in this film we have no savants. We watch and hear about children who don’t speak,  who may have some motor impairments,as well as those who have cognitive issues, or social issues. The thing of it is, that these all look like normal children.

As. one mother said – there is NO LOOK for autism. Unlike Down’s Syndrome, one cannot simply look at a child or an adult with autism and immediately KNOW that this is an autistic person.

We learned about such topics as Autism and Bullying, Autism in Public schools and the lack of proper training for the teachers. We listened and learned about Autism in the workplace, the impact of diet on autism, the cost of autism, and much more including amount of stress and wear and tear on the parents who have an autistic child.

Then we saw that some mothers have had two or three autistic children. We heard about the skyrocketing costs in caring for an autistic child, as well as the emotional cost on the parents themselves.

The film presents a series of parents, educators, and doctors who may appear as talking heads, but we heard from the film’s principals that it took them two years to film the project as families had to be found who were willing to open the doors to their homes for these documentary film makers. Parents who would open their hearts and souls as well as their doors.

But to make this film not only impactful, meaningful, and attractive visually there has to a great deal of care and attention given to the editing. The film is much more than talking heads – all of the parents we meet are on screen multiple time, and all have to discuss how each of them handle the various issues, problems, methods.  But all of this woven with the moving images of the children.

So, of course we saw many children, none of whom were asked to speak on camera. While we saw some mild tantrums and happy children playing, we were not shown anything that would scare you, like what was referenced as ‘meltdowns’.

Instead we were shown the bravery, courage and honesty of those parents who agreed to appear in the film. This is not a film for those who are currently dealing with autistic children, but this is not to say that the film would be of little interest or help to them.


Instead this is a film for those who have no first hand experience with autism. The numbers are climbing. It is now estimated that 1 in 50 children are autistic. One woman in the audience, said this ever so clearly. Autism is NOT going away.

As I said up top – this screening was a world premier – so kindly take note of the film, and if you have the opportunity to view this film, the experience of watching it, and know that learning that autism might be just be as close as next door, so it will be of value to learn something about this.

The trailer: