Autism Through Cinema
The Falls (1980)

The Falls (1980)

November 25, 2022

There's a Peter Greenaway season happening over at the BFI in London, and our Lillian recently conducted an interview with the man himself, which you can find here: 

https://www.bfi.org.uk/interviews/beginning-was-image-interview-with-peter-greenaway 

We thought, therefore, that it was high time we covered Greenaway, especially with Ethan boldly describing the director's work as one of the 'most autistic'...

Lillian and Ethan get together with Georgia to tackle Greenaway's first feature-length film, the epic apocalyptic mockumentary The Falls. We find an autistic mode in the film's approach to categorising and cataloguing, and connect strongly with Greenaway's interest in attempting to both capture and elude a wholeness and totality.

We also enjoy the film's absurdist imagery, and its complex approach to the use of language, particularly in relation to finding new words and visual imagery for what cannot be easily expressed. The mention of autism in relation to Greenaway on the documentary The Greenaway Alphabet is warmly received and enables our team to be all that more effusive about autistic presence in The Falls, and the affirmation of autistic presence in filmmaking more widely. 

Catch the Greenaway season at the BFI across November and December, and also on the BFI Player.

And, if you're quick, you might be able to see Ethan in the flesh when he gives his introduction to David Cronenberg's The Fly at the BFI on Monday 28th November 2022. Tickets still available here.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

November 4, 2022

We take a gentle, nostalgic, and surreal turn with this episode via Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 2010 palm d'or winning fantasy film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

We meditate on what so-called 'Slow Cinema' can offer the autistic viewer, and how this form of filmmaking cuts against the mainstream fast-paced approach. We also enjoy Weerasethakul's fantastical leanings and the methods he uses to normalise and naturalise the supernatural, while we also consider how the natural landscape of the Thai jungles evoke the connections often made between autism and the environment.

Georgia manages to make an intriguing comparison to the work of David Lynch, while Lillian laments alternative methods of filming nature that Uncle Boonmee seems to want to resist.

To read about the autistic 'ecological sainthoods', as explored by Dr Anna Stenning, find her article here: https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/7715/7606 

What do you make of the work of Weerasethakul and other proponents of 'slow cinema'? Does it connect with an autistic sensibility? Do let us know! Email us on cinemautism[at]gmail.com or join in the conversation on twitter @AutismCinema

Special Episode: Relaxed Screenings with Maggi Hurt (BFI)

Special Episode: Relaxed Screenings with Maggi Hurt (BFI)

October 21, 2022

In a break with our normal schedule, and posted a week early, we bring you a special episode where we reflect on the nature of 'Relaxed Screenings'.

You might have seen these advertised at cinemas - special events organised with autistic and neurodivergent audiences in mind. Typically the lights are dimmed but not fully turned off, the volume is lowered, there's an understanding among the audience that there may be people fidgeting or making noise, and there's often a separate room set aside as a quiet space. All these accommodations are to be welcomed, but perhaps there are also some problems that arise from trying to create a 'one size fits all' approach to autism-friendly screenings? Also, who chooses the films that are shown in these relaxed screenings? What might happen when the curators are autistic themselves?

To discuss all this, Ethan and David have invited Maggi Hurt, a programmer at the British Film Institute in the Southbank, London. Maggi has been responsible for devising and programming the 'Relaxed Series' screenings where she has worked in collaboration with autistic film lovers to curate events for autistic audiences. For their upcoming 'In Dreams are Monsters' season, our very own Ethan Lyon has taken up the challenge, and has programmed two horror films for the Relaxed Series. We talk about Ethan's choices, while also reflecting on how relaxed screenings work and what their future might be.

Tickets are still available for Ethan's screenings, and the man himself will be there to lead a Q&A discussion session afterwards at both events. Here are the details:

Pontypool - Monday 31st October 2022, 18:10, NFT3. Tickets here: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=pontypoolrelaxed

The Fly - Monday 28th November 2022, 18:00, NFT3. Tickets here: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=flyrelaxed 

Also, David mentions a book by autistic journalist Laura Kate Dale, who writes a little about relaxed screenings. The book is called Uncomfortable Labels and you can find it here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/uncomfortable-labels/laura-kate-dale/9781785925870 

Special Guest: Sophia Rose O’Rourke on The Secret Garden (1993)

Special Guest: Sophia Rose O’Rourke on The Secret Garden (1993)

October 14, 2022

We are skipping and stimming with delight to welcome Australian filmmaker and producer Sophia Rose O'Rourke to the podcast today. Sophia talks us through her experiences as an autistic creative and how she has been using filmmaking to help discover and explore her own identity. We talk about her short film 'Danse Russe', based on William Carlos Williams' poem of the same name: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46483/danse-russe, and we spend some time dwelling on the barriers that autistic people can face when trying to make a space in the film industry. But we also celebrate the very rich strengths that the autistic way-of-thinking can bring to creative cinematic spaces.

We then turn our attention the 1993 version of The Secret Garden directed by Agnieszka Holland and based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Sophia recalls her love of the film from childhood and the recognition she felt through the protagonist, Mary. We also reflect on the film's depiction of disability, and the power dynamics that can sometimes arise between carers and dependants.

After the recording, Sophia sent us a timely article on The Conversation about autism and employment. Have a read of it here: https://theconversation.com/how-do-we-make-workplaces-work-for-autistic-people-189572 

Enormous thanks to Sophia for taking the time to talk to us and for suggesting The Secret Garden. You can follow Sophia on Twitter at https://twitter.com/auntie_sophie 

Do get in touch if you have any reactions to this episode!

Scanners (1981) dir. David Cronenberg

Scanners (1981) dir. David Cronenberg

October 6, 2022

Hold onto your heads, we're back at you with another horror film just in time for spooky season. Ethan takes Alex and David into the splattery world of David Cronenberg via his 1981 brain-exploding psychological thriller Scanners.

We ponder whether the eponymous telepaths might stand in for an oppressed neurodivergent group, while reflecting on Cronenberg's apparent anti-psychiatry stance. There's a power-play in the film from authority figures seeking to control the scanners, set against a slightly more fascistic ideology of scanner revolution, and we wonder where to place heroism and villainy in this headache of a story. The discussion winds its way to a reflection on the extensive problems around the anti-vaxx movement and we find many parallels with this film and the story of a certain Dr Wakefield. David even starts to ask if science-fiction horror has helped to fuel an anti-science rhetoric? Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy in the gurning faces of the characters, and the gutsy bodyhorror that Cronenberg specialises in. 

We would therefore send a little content warning to those of you interested in watching this film - at times it is pretty horrible, and deals with a lot of dark and disturbing themes.

Join in the conversation at @autismcinema on Twitter and via email at cinemautism[at]gmail.com.

Pierrot le Fou (1965) dir Jean-Luc Godard

Pierrot le Fou (1965) dir Jean-Luc Godard

September 16, 2022

"Life may be sad, but it's always beautiful"

Today we pay tribute to one of the greats of modern cinema, the late Jean-Luc Godard. We recorded this conversation before the recent announcement of his passing, so we've brought our discussion of Pierrot le Fou forward on our release schedule. Godard is a filmmaker who means a lot to us all at Autism Through Cinema. His unfailingly maverick approach to the cinematic art form serves as a profound expression of what can be possible in this medium with an outlook alternative to the mainstream.

Lillian, David and Ethan fall in love again with Godard's technicolour masterpiece. Pierrot le Fou is a meandering road movie about love, freedom, and disconnection, based on Lionel White's 1962 novel Obsession. We reflect on the neurodivergent sensibilities of the two protagonists, particularly Anna Karina's mesmerising performance as Marianne, while also considering how the techniques and directions of the French New Wave align with autistic ways of thinking.

This episode features a specially-recorded introduction by Lillian Crawford paying tribute to Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

Do you have any thoughts or tributes to Godard? Send them to us on cinemautism@gmail.com and we'll happily read them out on a future episode. 

Sayonara CP (1972) dir. Kazuo Hara with Richard Butchins

Sayonara CP (1972) dir. Kazuo Hara with Richard Butchins

September 2, 2022

Today we welcome special guest host Richard Butchins to the podcast. Richard is a filmmaker, documentarian, TV presenter and disability activist whose credits include BBC's Panorama, ITV's Exposure and Channel 4's Dispatches. Richard's brilliant short films and photography can be found on his website: https://www.richardbutchins.art/

Richard brings along the 1972 documentary Sayonara CP (also known as Goodbye CP) directed by Kazuo Hara for Alex and Ethan to discuss. This tough and unflinching film follows the lives of Yokota Hiroshi and Yokozuka Koichi, two members of an activist group for people with cerebral palsy. Richard offers the film as an example of a direct engagement with disability discomfort that asks questions of an audience's perception and acceptance of physical and cognitive difference.

Many thanks to Richard for agreeing to be a guest on the show. If you have a response to the discussion on today's episode, please do get in touch with us! You can email us your thoughts on cinemautism@gmail.com or tweet us a reaction at @AutismCinema.

City Lights (1931) dir. Charlie Chaplin

City Lights (1931) dir. Charlie Chaplin

August 19, 2022

It is the early 1930s and sound has arrived to cinema. The medium's most celebrated silent era star is struggling to embrace this new audio dawn, preferring to keep his iconic little tramp mute while making only minimal use of sound effects. Along comes City Lights, perhaps Chaplin's most personal film, and we spend time with the Tramp and his hijinks and pratfalls to uncover autistic content. Are his awkward yet balletic movements through spaces reminiscent of some autistic tendencies of clumsiness? Does his resistance to the noise of the sound era create an autistic aesthetic of imagery and music rather than verbal communication? Do we need words anyway?

After a wonderful introduction from Lillian, Ethan and David join in the discussion and we revel in the set-pieces, the performance, and the gloriously romantic ending. Apologies for such a loooong episode, but we had so much we wanted to say!

Please do join in the conversation via our email cinemautism [at] gmail.com, and if you enjoy this podcast, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, or simply share it with everyone you know...

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) dir. Hayao Miyazaki

August 5, 2022

Lillian, David and Alex grab their broomsticks and take flight today into the magical worlds of Studio Ghibli via Hayao Miyazaki's 1989 film Kiki's Delivery Service. In among the gorgeous animation we find a meditation on the nature of difference and an exploration of the feeling of being an outsider. Kiki's wild energy and her bouts of gloom are likened to the rollercoaster emotions of the hardworking neurodivergent, while the concept of witchiness is also brought under autistic scrutiny. We reflect on how why the genres of anime and manga seem to appeal to autistic sensibilities, then we discuss a few more Ghibli films that have made a strong impression on us - particularly Spirited Away (2001) and Ponyo (2008). 

What's your take on Studio Ghibli films? Have they offered a cinematic space of autistic pleasure and escapism? Let us know your favourites on twitter at @AutismCinema or via email on cinemautism[at]gmail[dot]com.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) dir. Wes Anderson

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) dir. Wes Anderson

July 22, 2022

Jiminy Cricket! It's a Wes Anderson episode! 

David, Lillian and Ethan get all warm and cosy with the pastel-colours and eccentric characters of Anderson's celebrated 7th feature film Moonrise Kingdom. The film crackles with a neurodivergent energy, from the neat tableaus of the cinematography to the gently rebellious characters of Sam and Suzy. We discuss how Anderson's use of a childlike gaze creates a visual style that emphasises formal qualities and static images, with a clear attention to comedic background details. We find useful analysis from Jacob Siegel's essay 'Wes Anderson and the Aesthetics of Autism', particularly the idea that having 'a fierce loyalty to one's passions' is 'it's own victory' as evoked by many of Anderson's tragic and comedic characters. Find the full essay here: http://newpartisan.squarespace.com/home/wes-anderson-and-the-aesthetics-of-autism.html 

There's also enthusiasm for Anderson's use of Benjamin Britten's music in Moonrise Kingdom, his careful approach to sexuality, and the performances of Tilda Swinton (who has appeared previously in our Orlando episode).

As ever, we'd love to hear from our listeners. Do you have a favourite Anderson film? Do you find an autistic presence in his movies? If you have comments, let us know via cinemautism@gmail.com and we'll find some time to read them out in a future recording.

 

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