February 12, 2006

Autism: Really Good Fun!

"I wanted to write a film that showed that sometimes living with autism can be harrowing but that actually most of the time it's really good fun," Pell told reporters."

soooo.... Autism is, most of the time, really good fun?

Anyone know where I can get some of the fun kind of autism?

A new look at autism as Berlin film festival opens
Feb 9, 11:47 AM (ET)
By Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Berlin Film Festival opened on Thursday with a story of love and loss starring Sigourney Weaver as an autistic woman whose daughter dies in a car crash and Alan Rickman as the man who helps her cope.

With snow falling on the German capital, the bittersweet British-Canadian co-production "Snow Cake" kicked off the 56th annual "Berlinale," regarded as one of the top three festivals in the world alongside Cannes and Venice.

The film, which received scattered applause from Berlin's notoriously blunt audience of journalists and critics, jolts viewers out of their seats early on when a truck ploughs full-speed into Rickman's car, instantly killing a quirky hitchhiker girl he has just picked up.

Wracked with guilt about the accident and weighed down by his own troubled past, Rickman's character Alex forms a strange bond with the girl's mother, a high-functioning but emotionally erratic autistic named Linda.

Weaver, whose diverse film credits include the "Alien" films and "The Ice Storm," spent the better part of a year meeting people with autism to prepare for the role -- an experience she said gave her a new view on the disorder.

"I think we have to begin to see it as a gift," she told a news conference. "We may not understand what it's there for, but if you're in the presence of someone with autism you learn so much. You learn how to play, you learn how to see things, you learn how to experience things and how jarring the world is."


"Snow Cake" headlines what critics have described as a strong but morbid line-up of films featuring murder, drug addiction, exorcism and rape.

Weaver and Rickman will accompany Berlinale head Dieter Kosslick down the red carpet on Thursday evening, and other stars due to appear at the February 9-19 festival include George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Natalie Portman.

A record number of 18,000 film buyers, sellers, producers, directors, actors and journalists will crowd the screening of 400 films, including "A Prairie Home Companion" from Robert Altman and "The Road to Guantanamo," an account of three British men held at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba.

"Snow Cake," which contains both poignant and off-key moments, was directed by Marc Evans and written by first time screen-writer Angela Pell. Pell was inspired by her own autistic son Johnny, who like Weaver's character in the film loves to eat snow and bounce up and down on a trampoline.

"I wanted to write a film that showed that sometimes living with autism can be harrowing but that actually most of the time it's really good fun," Pell told reporters.

Unlike "Rain Man," the 1988 film that starred Dustin Hoffman as the autistic brother of Tom Cruise, "Snow Cake" strives for a more subtle message about a disorder which is characterized by repetitive acts and a preoccupation with fantasy.

In a dig at those who would try to put autism in a box, one of the film's more disagreeable characters says at one point: "I know about autism, I saw the film."


Mom to Mr. Handsome said...

I was so shocked when Pell said such a stupid comment. But, that comment represents what we face everyday as parents of children with Autism, stupidity from other people. I wonder if he just said it for shock value, for more press time, unfortunately at the expense of others.

Anonymous said...

As the mom of a newly diagnosed child with a husband in heavy duty denial and friends who don't really "get" this whole autism thing, this infuriates me. "Rain Man" did enough damage by pigeon holing society's image of autism, making comments like "he doesn't look autistic" commonplace if your child isn't sitting in a corner flicking the air and spinning things. The LAST thing the autistic community needs is more crap like this.

Do'C said...

Hi Ginger,

I agree with MTMH, Pell's comment seems pretty lame - I don't know about shocking, but definitely clueless at first glance.

Your question:
"Anyone know where I can get some of the fun kind of autism?"
does bring up an important issue - Raising children with special needs is not always easy (especially in a world where daily life is built around and for the neurotypical). But I would like to submit for your consideration that autism, in and of itself, (as a neurological difference) is neither a source of fun, nor a source of suffering.

P.S. I enjoy reading your blog as food for thought.

A. Regan said...


I am in the process of producing a film on an American pianist that most likely was autistic. It's an independent project and funding is a problem, but if all goes well the film will set the bar for all other films that deal with people with autism.

A. Regan