‘Autism In Love’ Documentary Film Is Raising Money On Kickstarter

from the Huffington Post Los Angeles: ‘Autism In Love’ Documentary Film Is Raising Money On Kickstarter
The Huffington Post | By Anna Almendrala Posted: 04/10/2013 3:46 pm EDT | Updated: 04/10/2013 8:30 pm EDT

LOS ANGELES — Romantic love is difficult enough to navigate if you’re neurotypical (Exhibit A: the entire rom-com genre). But if you’ve been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the perils and pitfalls of dating, relationships and commitment can seem like insurmountable chasms.

How do you apologize to your girlfriend after a fight if you can’t read facial cues? What does physical intimacy look like if you hate being stroked or hugged? These are just some of the questions that people with autism grapple with on a daily basis — and the subject of a new documentary called “Autism In Love.”

Independent filmmakers Matt Fuller and Carolina Groppa in Los Angeles, Calif. have been exploring the issue for the past 18 months, following four people and four couples as they look for love and try to keep it. Halfway through production already, Fuller and Groppa posted their production plan to Kickstarter Monday to raise money to finish the film. In addition to the video they shot making their case to would-be backers (above), Fuller and Groppa also posted a compelling preview of the footage they’ve shot so far.
Groppa got the idea for the documentary while working as an administrative assistant for Dr. Ira Heilveil, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA medical school. It was essentially a day job to support herself as she pursued acting and other film projects, Groppa explained to The Huffington Post.

But when Heilveil asked Groppa to help him with research for a new book, the stories she read about members of the autism community and their romantic adventures quickly became a passion project. She approached friend Matt Fuller (the pair had met at film school at the University of Central Florida) with an idea for a documentary. As of this story’s publish date, they are half-way done with film production.

“I was immediately hooked because I was always looking for stories about characters who want something it seems they can’t have,” said Fuller in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. Fuller, who has a background in film development at Sony and MBST Entertainment, also admitted that he had been looking for something “a little bit more fulfilling.”

“I’m in love with all of my subjects,” Fuller added. “When I immersed myself in their world I realized how beautiful it was … it’s an amazing opportunity to examine a part of human experience that’s important to us all.”

Still, like the wider population, not everyone with autism longs for romance, pointed out Groppa to HuffPost.

“Even in the neurotypical world, that’s not for everybody,” said Groppa. “Not everybody with autism wants [romantic] love.” Groppa hopes her film will help viewers “redefine [their] own conception of love — not just how it relates to someone with autism.”

The filmmakers hope to raise enough money to finish filming, hire an editor and send it out to film festivals. To learn more about their project, check out their Kickstarter page and watch the video below.

Planet of Snail

Planet of Snail is a glimpse into the unique relationship of deaf and blind Young-Chan and his wife Soon-Ho, who has a spinal disability and shortened stature. The two navigate life’s challenges (such as the hour-long changing of a light bulb) together with an astonishing level of communication and trust. Soon-Ho interprets the outside world for Young-Chan, communicating using finger Braille and adapted computers, while Young-Chan treats Soon-Ho’s debilitating pain with acupuncture.

Unusually for disability documentaries, little mention is made of how the couple support themselves, though Young-Chan is seen entering essay contests and the pair coaches aspiring actors in appearing to be deaf and blind. Young-Chan also writes and directs a play for his church group, but only a snippet is shown. He also makes small sculptures for the amusement of his deaf-blind friends, one of which depicts a man using a chamber pot.

Some of Young-Chan’s friends express jealousy over their relationship as Young-Chan has “full time care”, but Young-Chan is adamant that isn’t why he married her. But the remark clearly stings; Young-Chan later decides to do some errands on his own just to keep his skills sharp, while Soon-Ho spends the day at home alone. Though he returns safely, having proved he’s still able to navigate, Young-Chan immediately comforts Soon-Ho for her hours of loneliness. Therein lies the real bond between the two; the understanding and acceptance.

Pick of the week: A violent, sexy and startling love story

from Salon: Pick of the week: A violent, sexy and startling love story
Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard plays a paraplegic in love with a kickboxer in “Rust and Bone”
By Andrew O’Hehir
If I tell you that “Rust and Bone” is a love story about a killer-whale trainer and a single-dad kickboxer, it sounds like one kind of movie. (Admittedly, not a kind you’ve seen very often.) But what if I add that it stars Oscar winner and “Inception” co-star Marion Cotillard as a woman who loses her legs in a bizarre accident? Or if I tell you that it’s a vibrant, violent and ferociously sexy film driven by a soundtrack heavy on Anglo-American dance-pop? (This is a movie to dance to, or make love to, not one to sit around with glasses of overpriced wine and chat about.) Then if I tell you it’s a French film, a showcase for extraordinary acting and moments of cinematic abstraction, an acrid social commentary, and in some sense an heir to the classic romances spun by Max Ophüls and Eric Rohmer and Jean-Luc Godard, it sounds like something else again.

None of that sounds like I’m describing the same movie, except to some tiny coterie of international cinema buffs out there who might say, “Oh, the new Jacques Audiard film. Well, of course.” Audiard is now 60 years old and has made just six features since moving from screenwriting to directing in the early ’90s. He’s well-known in France and has twice won the César, or French Oscar, for best picture — for “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” in 2005 (an adaptation of James Toback’s “Fingers”) and the brilliant 2010 prison saga “A Prophet” — but remains completely obscure in America, which is at least mildly ironic. If all of French cinema for the last 30 years has been preoccupied with confronting the power and popular appeal of Hollywood, at least arguably, Audiard may be the most conspicuously Americanized of French directors. He makes genre films designed to thrill you and titillate you as well as engage your mind, and seeks an almost metaphysical fusion between 1970s Hollywood and the French New Wave. (Mind you, I could use that same sentence to describe Luc Besson, except that I’d have to take out the “engage your mind” part, and somehow sneak in the phrase “unbelievable garbage.”)

All of which is to say that my attempt to describe “Rust and Bone” adequately is likely to fail, and so is anybody else’s. You should just go see it, because it has a visual command and powerful narrative undertow all its own. It’s going to play art-house theaters, because it has subtitles and that means that only an infinitesimal percentage of the population is willing to give it a try. But you don’t need to read to understand the shot where you see a guy’s bloody molar go skittering across the ground like a runaway insect, or the dreamlike scene where a woman commands a killer whale with gestures, like a conductor before an orchestra. Not to mention the one where the killer-whale lady and the former owner of the molar have hot sex, and we can see clearly that both her legs end above the knee, and that she has had the stumps tattooed “DROITE” and “GAUCHE,” left and right. (There was a moment during the film when I thought I understood why she did that. But – sorry, it’s gone.)

In fact, “Rust and Bone” is specifically a movie about people who hardly talk at all, or at least not about their emotional lives. Here’s the big courtship scene between Cotillard’s character, the double-amputee whale trainer named Stéphanie, and the Belgian kickboxer cum security guard called Ali, played by Matthias Schoenaerts. They become friends, and she mentions one day after they’re cleaning up the lunch dishes that she hasn’t had sex since her injury and isn’t even sure the equipment still works. He nods and asks: “So do you want to fuck?” He doesn’t have to be at work for a while and doesn’t have another date or anything; he genuinely wouldn’t mind. And they claim chivalry is dead! (In an earlier scene, Stéphanie asks Ali why he’s carrying a kid’s toy en route to an illegal street fight. “For my son,” he responds. She’s known him for weeks and had no idea he had one.)

Cotillard gets the showier role in “Rust and Bone,” playing Stéphanie as a species of melodramatic heroine, a vain, somewhat spoiled woman who is thrust into a new relationship with her body and the world after her devastating accident. (Digital effects are used to remove Stéphanie’s legs, but it’s so convincing you’ll never ask yourself how it was done.) As she tells Ali during their first meeting, before the accident, she is used to attracting sexual attention from men and rather likes it. He is driving her home after rescuing her, in his role as nightclub bouncer, from an overly attentive suitor. She gives him a slight come-on signal, but first of all she’s got a boyfriend at home and second of all Ali blows it, observing that if she’s going to dress like a whore, she shouldn’t be shocked if guys get the wrong idea.

But it’s Schoenaerts’ performance as the muscular, laconic Ali (he isn’t Arab or Muslim; it’s a nickname) who holds the key to “Rust and Bone.” Here I go, attaching a brainiac interpretation to a movie that is primarily a visual and kinetic experience — the masterful cinematography is by Stéphane Fontaine, Audiard’s usual collaborator — but I think “Rust and Bone” is about the relationship between the mind and body in contemporary society, and maybe also about the way late capitalism has stripped away so much of the veneer of civilization. Ali is neither an indecent nor a dishonest man. He works hard and doesn’t steal and never uses his physical strength to abuse the weak. He has traveled to his sister’s house in Antibes, in the south of France, after extracting his son from some dire criminal situation in Belgium. But he’s also instinctive and almost animalistic; as his offensive remark to Stéphanie suggests, he has poor judgment, doesn’t think before he speaks, and seems unconscious of the bourgeois social codes that once governed male-female intercourse. (It apparently doesn’t occur to him, for instance, that going to a nightclub with Stéphanie and then ditching her for an able-bodied girl is a move that lacks panache.)

It’s only partly accurate, and way too simplistic, to suggest that the twin demands of fatherhood and helping Stéphanie build a new life after her injury help develop a moral sense within Ali. It’s just as true to say that the brutality and directness of Ali’s existence — the fact that he makes money by beating other men and being beaten by them — shock Stéphanie out of her self-pity and connect her to the basic physical facts of being alive. But let’s go bigger than that: “Rust and Bone” is one of the year’s best films precisely because it can’t be boiled down to a message or synopsis. It’s an exercise in style that risks trashiness in search of transcendence, and it’s a sizzling celebration of the power of music, the power of images, and the electric, destructive power of the human body.

“Rust and Bone” opens this week in New York and Los Angeles, with national release to follow.

Girlfriend

Girlfriend exposes some unsettling but often unsaid truths about how the mainstream population treats and interacts with individuals with Down Syndrome (and therefore presumed intellectual disability).
The movie starts off with Evan, a rotund young man with the obvious physical characteristics of Down’s Syndrome, engaging in some pre-Facebook networking. The period in which this film is set is indeterminate, as Evan uses a rotary dial phone to make a series of calls to a list of friends and relatives, the settings and fashions seem contemporary, but nobody seems to have or mention home computers or internet access. Evan has a voice associated with commonly-held ideas about people with mental retardation, slow, deep, and slightly slurred. (It seems people with Down’s Syndrome have a significantly high incidence of hearing problems.) He has large, childish handwriting, speaks in short words and simple sentences, and seems to have problems with social subtleties and time perception (I don’t know if these last two are typical of individuals with Down Syndrome, but they are frequently present in other conditions, and seem to be the most obvious impairment to Evan’s ability to function in adult life).

Evan lives with his mother, and they spend a great deal of time together during their daily routine; they eat meals, watch soap operas, and television dramas together. Evan has an incredible memory for soap opera plots (one of those moments distributed throughout the picture-and there are a fair number of them-which may be intended to cause the audience to question their perceptions of people with Down Syndrome). Perhaps Evan is among the fortunate ones with borderline to average IQ scores, but the film does not make this clear. His scholastic capabilities are no longer relevant, for the foreseeable future he has a dead-end job, and a secure if somewhat sheltered life. Evan and his mother both work in a diner-type restaurant a short car-ride, or a long walk, away from their home. Though Evan not only waits tables, but takes out garbage and does other such dirty jobs, his continued employment is jeopardized by instances where he is late coming back from his break or takes too long in the restroom. The movie does a very good job of portraying the fact that the higher-ups at work often say negative things about him, rather than to him, and he overhears them. One scene shows Evan engaged in a task while commentary from the kitchen is heard as a running narrative in which the kitchen supervisor tells his mother that he only hired Evan as a favor to her because she didn’t want to leave him home alone while she worked, but that his taking more than an hour for a lunch break outside of the premises as a regular practice was reason to fire him.

The audience are shown that on at least one such overly-long lunch break, Evan pays a visit to Candy, an attractive young woman he has been carrying the torch for since high school. Though Candy surely is aware of Evan’s attraction to her, she is not about to reciprocate, due to the social convention that someone of “normal” intellectual and societal abilities _shouldn’t_ be romantically involved with a person whose intellectual capabilities are suspect, if not conspicuously lower. On one occasion, when his knock on the door of her house was not responded to, he got a ladder and peeped in the window, seeing her in a bubble bath. Though Candy knows he’s harmless, still, such behavior would be more than merely frowned upon at any other time and by any other person.

Shannon Woodward and Evan Sneidera

Evan has the double-edged sword of living in a small rural town, in which everybody seems to know everyone else. This provides him a strong, if informal, support system of sorts, which proves invaluable when his mother suddenly dies, and Evan is too shocked to know how to handle the situation. However, the downside of this sort of community is that everybody knows who and what everyone else is doing, and jealousies fester. The object of Evan’s affection is a single mother whose ex-boyfriend Russ is still possessive of her, but strangely unwilling to help pay her rent. Russ uses every opportunity to try to get sexual favors from Candy even though they’re no longer “together”. She’s pretty much stuck with dodging his advances by day because they work in the same auto body shop (jobs are truly scarce in this town), but has banned him from coming to the house because he accidentally hurt his small son Simon when they got into a dispute concerning Simon’s paternity.

At one point, Russ meets a suspected romantic rival at a party at which both Candy and Evan are present, and everyone witnesses Russ instigate a fistfight with the guy, who, to complicate things, is married to someone else. Evan sees his opportunity to present himself to Candy as a knight in shining armor when a distant relation, intending to keep Evan in food for a while, but unable to take him in, gives him a few thousand dollars in cash at his mother’s funeral. On one occasion when Candy is short with the rent, Evan leaves her a thousand dollars as an anonymous gift at her door. She uses it, and only afterwords finds out that it was from Evan. Though she is not romantically interested in Evan, she clearly wants to avoid even the appearance of exploiting him or taking advantage of him, and asks him pointedly about the money and where he got it. As additional opportunities to help out financially present themselves, Evan starts seeing more of Candy, and the relationship starts getting closer.

It isn’t long before Russ finds out, and presenting himself as a friend, starts to pump Evan for information about Candy’s life, and feed him false information about how to gain her favor, e.g., “she likes it rough”. Perhaps it is no accident that Russ has a serpent tattooed on his bicep.

In this small community where people think nothing of leaving windows and doors open, Russ subsequently finds an opportunity to take some of the money Evan leaves for Candy and hold it hostage in order to get additional sexual favors from Candy. Evan happens to get home early and witness Russ sexually exploiting Candy after Candy had initially called him saying that she couldn’t find the money. While Evan does not directly confront Russ, his conduct towards Candy stands in profound contrast to that of Russ.

Whatever Evan’s level and nature of disability, his moral and ethical sense is not disabled. Russ, on the other hand, appears to have the closest thing modern psychiatry and secular thinking will admit of to a moral disability, as among other things, he shows no qualms about manipulating someone he considers his societal and intellectual inferior. The character of Russ, to all appearances, displays the characteristics of a personality disorder.

One day when Russ briefly kidnaps Simon to take him to have a paternity test, and runs his car off the road, Evan finds the wreckage and carries Simon back, though when Simon went missing suspicion initially fell upon Evan.

The movie concludes with Evan having gained Candy as a girlfriend in every sense of the word.