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.