Autism, The Musical (Tricia Regan, 2007): USA

What an inspiring film! It illustrates the strength of character for those who fight the odds. In this case, the odds are against those with autism when they grow up and cannot function well in mainstream society.

Autism, the Musical is an attempt – a successful one – to get a group of kids with the condition to work together and produce a musical. This is a very difficult task, as is shown. One of the main characteristics of the condition is that people cannot function in a group activity with others. Ah, but maybe that can change.

Maybe, if you look outside the box, outside the usual treatment regime, you might be surprised. You might even find a bunch of kids singing a musical!

Intercut with the development of the musical in a timeline to the opening presentation, are the stories of each child and his family. We spend enough time with them to get into the nitty gritty of their lives in a very short time. The filmmaker must have either known their subjects very well or spent a lot of time with them, because they reveal very personal feelings. Some families split up after the stress of having to care for a child that is so intense. Some families grow stronger in their fight for the cause.

We study each child enough to understand the kind of toll this condition takes on other family members, especially those looking for “alternative” treatments and outcomes. We also understand the incredible rewards of reaching success when doing so. It takes strength of character in the family members as well as persistence on the part of the autistic child. To see the growth spurts is wonderfully inspiring.

The camera work is mostly hand held and intimate. The subjects were very comfortable with the crew. The music is very nicely done and contributes to the fun environment of the musical. It likewise has it sad moments, and sounds like it was choreographed exactly to the scenes.

Very uplifting movie. It has won the Mill Valley Film Festival Award and the Audience Award at the Newport International Film Festival, both in 2007. Tricia Regan, the videographer, has produced 5 other documentaries recently and has directed 3 other films.

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