After Rain Man: Recent films about diverse adults with autism

Article published in LINK magazine Nº 61 (Autism-Europe)

Twenty five years ago, the film Rain Man raised millions of dollars at the box office and brought international attention to autism. For some in the autism community, this film also led to frustration with the growing public perception that people with autism are all extremely intelligent yet socially challenged individuals like Raymond, Rain Man’s main character. In recent years, many other films about autism have been released featuring more diverse portrayals of teenagers and adults with autism as they confront the challenges of adult life such as puberty, friendships, intimate relationships, work, bullying and the death of significant family members. Here, Autism-Europe brings you details of eight of these lesser-known films that you may find interesting to watch and show to others to raise awareness of autism – in all of its diverse forms.

The Black Balloon (Australia, 2008)

2014_08_04_The black balloonThomas is about to turn 16 and he just wants to have a normal adolescence. Yet, he is often called upon to take care of his brother Charlie, who has autism and is in need of a high level of support. When their family moves to a new town, Thomas is often embarrassed by Charlie’s behaviour in public. When Thomas starts dating Jackie, a girl from his swimming class, he faces many obstacles as he confronts both his own desires and his sense of care and responsibility for his brother.

Original language: English
Available on DVD
Drama / Romance
More information: 
www.aso.gov.au/titles/features/black-balloon/

Ben X (Belgium, 2007) 

2014_08_04_Ben XBen is an adolescent with autism who is far more intelligent than his high school classmates, but also extremely shy and introverted. His life at school is hell as he is the daily target of cruel bullying. He finds refuge in his bedroom, where he plays his favourite online computer game, Archlord, in an attempt to train himself for the real world he lives in. As the horror of being bullied grows, he devises a plan in which he will stop being a victim and become a hero.

Original language: Dutch
Available on DVD
Drama / Thriller
More information:
www.benx.be/

The Special Need (Italy, 2013)

Enea is a 29 year-old Italian man with autism who really wants to2014_08_04_The special need have sex. Together with his friends, Carlo and Alex, he embarks on a road trip to Northern Europe. What begins as a search for a physical relationship becomes more complicated, raising questions about sex, love, emotions and friendship – and finding unexpected answers.

Original language: Italian
Documentary
More information:
www.thespecialneed.com/

God’s Ears (United Sates, 2008)

Noah is2014_08_04_Gods ears an aspiring boxer who has autism. He spends most of the days cleaning the floors at his local gym, waiting for the perfect moment when he will finally step into the ring. One day, he crosses paths with pole dancer, Alexia. The two become friends but when their friendship begins to show signs of turning into something more serious, they must both face their fears and challenge their perceptions of love.

Original language: English
Available on DVD
Drama
More information: 
www.godsears.com/

Temple Grandin (United Sates, 2010)

2014_08_04_Temple GrandinUniversity professor and autism self-advocate, Temple Grandin, has become a top scientist in humane livestock handling. This film portrays her early diagnosis of autism, her challenging childhood, the support she received from her family and science teacher, and her innate sensitivity to, and understanding of, animal behaviour. The film highlights her perseverance and determination while struggling with the challenges of autism at a time when the condition was still quite unknown.

Original language: English
Available on DVD
Biography / Drama
More information: 
www.hbo.com/movies/temple-grandin/ 

The Story of Luke (United States, 2012)

2014_08_04_The story of LukeLuke is a young man with autism who embarks on a mission to find a job and a girlfriend. After being raised by his grandparents in a loving and protective family environment, his world changes suddenly when his grandmother dies and he is forced to move in with relatives. Luke must confront the challenges of leaving his previously sheltered existence behind to find a job and survive as an adult.

Original language: English
Available on DVD
Comedy / Drama
More information:
www.thestoryofluke.com

Snow Cake (Canada, 2006) 

2014_08_04_Snow cakeWhen Alex picks up young hitchhiker, Vivienne, he has no idea that his life is about to change completely. A terrible accident occurs on the road and Vivienne dies on the spot. When Alex, who is traumatised by the accident, decides to visit Vivienne’s mother, Linda, he discovers a woman with autism who is unable to show any emotion. When Linda convinces Alex to stay for a few days after the funeral, friendships evolve as Alex struggles to come to terms with what has happened.

Original language: English
Available on DVD
Drama / Romance
More information: 
www.imdb.com/title/tt0448124/

Mary and Max (Australia, 2009) 

2014_08_04_Mary and MaxMax is a forty-four year old, severely obese Jewish man with autism living in New York. Mary is a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne. This animated film tells the story of a 20-year pen-friendship between two unlikely characters. Despite their differences, and the fact that they have never met in person, the bond between them grows. But when Mary goes to university and studies mental disorders and uses Max as a case study, their friendship is put to the test.

Languages: English and Yiddish
Available on DVD, iTunes and Netflix
Animation / Comedy / Drama
More information: 
www.maryandmax.com/

CinemAutismo film festival

CinemAutismo is an annual film festival in Turin, Italy, featuring films related to autism. The festival is held around World Autism Awareness Day each year since 2009, by the Associazione Museo Nazionale del Cinema. It aims to use cinema as an engaging and visual platform to raise public awareness of autism, provide new insights into the condition, and to stimulate discussion and debate. Several of the films above were screened at CinemAutismo in 2014.

More information: www.cinemautismo.it/

2014_08_04_Cinemautismo 2014.jpg

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