A Family Documentary

Film by: Henry Corra and Grahame Weinbren
Aired: HBO, August 16, 2000

Reviewed by
Linda Wanfried

Who would have the patience to watch this film? Only people who love someone with autism. The film is an experience in sensory overload. It is hard to sit through! But it is wonderful. It is the story of George, who is 12, has autism, and has a dad who is a documentary film maker. Dad gives George a camera. The footage that George shoots is disjointed. There is avant garde jazz cello music played by (George's uncle) Tom Corra, who was quite a celebrated musician. However, his music is not easy listening. Come to think of it, there is nothing easy at all going on in this movie. It's real life. For those interested in autism and family dynamics, it's worth watching, but it ain't easy.

There are interviews with classmates and friends of George. They are asked what they think is different about him. I was crying a lot during that part. You know how it is. We all agonize over how our kids experience the world, and how they are perceived by others when they are out there sinking or swimming on their own. George's friends described his differences simply, clearly, and with acceptance.

There are scenes of George and some classmates in his special school. They perform a rock song called "Between a Rock and a Hard Place". I suppose that must be autobiographical. There is also a part of the movie about George's parents separating. We watch as George and his dad talk about that. George is playing a video game and is not looking at Dad, but we see him struggle to understand how their lives will change. Uta Frith is interviewed, giving commentary about characteristics that many people with autism share. She is internationally respected researcher on Autism and Aspergers. Unfortunately there was no title under her image to identify her. That came in the credits at the end. Her clips were cut in with an adult man who has autism. Mark Ramoser describes his life experiences. This is very poignant and touching. The counterpoint was interesting.

I think this is kind of an insider's film. The people who would get the most out of it are those who have a family member with autism, or professionals who have been working with people with autism for some time. Dad, the filmmaker Henry Corra, probably made that choice. I think a broader audience would enjoy and appreciate this film if there were some straightforward scenes (with non-skewed camera angles, and no wild music). For example, the scenes of Uta Firth were shown at an angle. I understand that much of the film is intended to show a sensory overloaded world view. However, giving us a rest here and there would make the disjointed more powerful.

I forget which treat snacks we use for our rating system. I give this movie 4 M&M's.

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