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Paradox Lake (2002)
If you have a particular interest in autism, this film might interest you.
If you have a particular interest in autism, this film might interest you. All of the kids in the film were individuals with autism, which I found remarkable. I liked the idea that these kids could participate in the making of a film, and we are spared the "hollywood" approach to disabilities, which is insulting to those with autism, etc. and to viewers as well.
The main problems I have with this film, however, are the romanticized depiction of autism and the attempt of the film, from what I could gather, to present aspects of the story from the view of one who has autism. Fuzzy hand-held video, distant voices, and moody music are supposed to create the feeling of "autism," I guess, but who could possibly know, if you aren't autistic? The young girl with autism in the film has no verbal language, and plays with toys and writes coded messages to the main character to warn him about his brain tumor. Autistic kids with psychic powers? Come on. Individuals with autism may have a brain that is differently wired than the brains of typical folks, but that doesn't mean they are capable of extraordinary powers. Sure, some individuals with Autism have amazing capacities to focus on particular areas of life, such as numbers, dates, etc., but that is the exception and not the norm.
More disturbing for me was the story line that focused on the young girl with autism and her "special" communication experience with the lead actor. As someone who works with individuals with Autism, I'd be much more interested in seeing a child successfully communicate wants and needs to others, instead of running around hiding toys to transmit a coded message to the outside world. Maybe I need to loosen up a bit, but I enjoy meaningful relationships with plenty of individuals with autism, and it isn't magical or psychic experiences we share. The relationships I have with kids and adults with autsim are real, warm, and the result of having developed a rapport with another person, just like it would be with anybody else.
And romanticizing a child's communication and social skill deficits does nothing to help with the image and perception that typical people have regarding autism and those who have autism. I recognize that films like this can help with developing an appreciation for those with disabilities, in that many viewers may not have had any experiences with autism, and I applaud the filmakers for their attempts. But I see a film like this and I'm reminded of the barriers that individuals with disabilities experience when they try to make their way in the world. Placing a mysterious shroud of psychic powers around the individual with autism only reinforces the negative stereoptypes and misguided perceptions the "normal" world already has, from my point of view.
Instead of highlighting the strengths and desires of these kids, which more often than not are very similar to the strengths and desires typically developing kids might have, the film created "special" kids, with strange, misunderstood interests and mysterious inner lives that, incidentally, are explained away by the camp counselors in less than one or two sentences. For a film that appeared to be attempting to present a dignified and deep depiction of autism initially, the story line and character developments disappointed me in the end.