Autism Through Cinema
A Brief Hiatus… we will be back!

A Brief Hiatus… we will be back!

April 8, 2022

Dearest listeners - we need to take a short break while we record some new episodes. When we return, we plan to bring you a special series of episodes where we talk to autistic people working within the film industry, alongside our regular output of film discussions.

To that end, if YOU are an autistic person working within the film industry in some form, we'd love to hear from you! Please get in touch on cinemautism@gmail.com and tell us a bit about yourself. Or you can drop us a message via our website: https://www.autism-through-cinema.org.uk/contact

In the meantime, our back catalogue of episodes is staying up, giving you time to catch up with any you may have missed.

We hope to return in the summer. See you then!

ATC Podcast

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) dir. Philip Kaufman

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) dir. Philip Kaufman

March 25, 2022

Our podcast people - namely John-James, Alex and Ethan - tackle the pod people of Philip Kaufman's 1978 sci-fi horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This unnerving tale of alien invasion arose from the anxieties of the 'Red Scare' of the 1950s when Soviet Union communism was the peak existential threat to the American way-of-life. The aliens clone humans in pods and use those clones to lure new victims. It is the strange behaviour of the clones that alerts the heroes to the presence of an invasive force. So, in the context of autism and neurodivergence, we find here a tale of neurological difference where behaviour and social divergence marks people out as 'other'. We toy with the idea that the pod-people are the conformist neurotypicals determined to assimilate everyone into their ideology, but those same aliens could metaphorically stand for the fears of the 'contagion' of neurodivergence. Perhaps the pod-people are thrillingly different? Perhaps they are revolutionaries? We twist and turn around these ideas, before contemplating what a present day version of this timeless tale might look like.

The voices in this episode are Ethan Lyon, Alex Widdowson, and John-James Laidlow.

Give us your thoughts by email cinemautism[at]gmail.com     

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (2018) dir. Steve Sullivan

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (2018) dir. Steve Sullivan

March 11, 2022

Ey up! We're up North today, in the company of cult comedy music legend Chris Sievey and his alter-ego Frank Sidebottom (and Little Frank, of course!). Our special guest is artist, writer and voice artist Sumita Majumdar who brings along her love and admiration for the wacky and unconventional Frank. We discuss how masking crosses over with performance, and how performance itself is a blurry concept when we layer ourselves with so many identities. We also reflect on the term 'eccentricity' and how that fits into the neurodiversity paradigm. There's a sense that Frank's eccentric character is made possible from being a northerner in a northern town rather than a Londoner, causing us to reflect on how neurodiversity sits in relation to locality. The film documents how the Frank Sidebottom character takes over Chris Sievey's life and dwells on some of the suffering Sievey goes through as a result. But we find 'suffering' to be a problematic concept in relation to the creation of art, and wonder if the ideas of neurodiversity give us a new way of looking at artistic creation and artistic industries.

For those unfamiliar with Frank Sidebottom, we suggest this delightful video of 'Panic on the Streets of Timperley': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcAME_Hs9mg

Big thanks to Sumita for joining us on this episode. For more on Sumita's work, do have a read of her article for the National Autistic Society: https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/stories/stories-from-the-spectrum-pablo

Sumita was joined today by regulars Alex and David.

Follow us on @AutismCinema on Twitter and Instagram and email feedback to us on cinemautism[at]gmail.com

Vision (2009) dir. Margerethe Von Trotta

Vision (2009) dir. Margerethe Von Trotta

February 25, 2022

The 12th Century polymath abbess Saint Hildegard von Bingen is the subject of our film this week via Margerethe von Trotta's compelling historical drama Vision. We're joined again by special guest Gemma Williams for whom Hildegard von Bingen has been something of an 'autistic special interest' for a while. We consider the themes of feeling othered and outcast, but also the strength those positions give for the forging of an individual path. We're careful to not retrospectively diagnose Hildegard as autistic, but reflect on the importance of identifying historical figures who may have been neurodivergent for the project of neurodiversity in the present day. Hildegard is a quietly revolutionary figure who stands up against the stringent rules of her day, and subsequently becomes a figurehead for the similarly neurodivergent seeking a place in the world. Following this idea, we soon identified another neurodivergent candidate in the film in the form of Hildegard's obsessive follower, Sister Richardis.

A shout-out as well to the musicians Lingua Ignota and Hildegard von Blingin' who we think our listeners might enjoy following this discussion! In today's episode you heard Dr Gemma Williams, John-James Laidlow, Ethan Lyon, and Dr David Hartley.

Contribute to our discussions or suggest future episodes at cinemautism@gmail.com     

Chungking Express (1994) dir. Wong Kar-wai

Chungking Express (1994) dir. Wong Kar-wai

February 11, 2022

Do you like pineapple? If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates? Chungking Express asks a lot of questions of us and of itself, and we wonder how it fares when interrogated from an autistic perspective. We find that this dreamy, genre-bending, love story about longing, loss, and chance encounters is soaked with neurodivergence, from Cop 663's consideration of the emotions of the objects in his flat, to Faye's stimmy dancing and repetitive taste in music. We also enjoy Kar-wai's aesthetic choices as he darts between frantic camerawork and slow-motion tableaus, and a soundtrack to die for. Basically, quite a few of our regular hosts cherish this film as one of their all-time favourites and we have a great time discovering it anew.

It was lovely to welcome back Lillian Crawford for this recording, who is joined by Janet Harbord, John-James Laidlow and David Hartley.

Brazil (1985) dir. Terry Gilliam

Brazil (1985) dir. Terry Gilliam

January 28, 2022

Welcome to the terrifying dystopia of Terry Gilliam's astounding sci-fi fever-dream Brazil. Our special guest this week is Neurocultures Collective member Benjamin Brown who offers Gilliam's cult classic as an exploration of the maddening labyrinth of neurotypicality endured in the form of social etiquette, bureaucracy, and conformity. We are thrilled by how the richness of the mise-en-scene rewards repeated viewing, and the entertainment value of the madcap performances of Jonathan Pryce, Michael Palin, and Robert De Niro. We reflect on how the film questions what typicality is, and what it means to suddenly feel like the outsider - and what might be discovered in that outsider position. We also draw attention to autistic forays into satire, including the wonderful 'Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical (ISNT)', as archived here: https://erikengdahl.se/autism/isnt/

Small apologies for the slight loss in sound quality in this recording - we had a bit of trouble with Benjamin's microphone, but hopefully you'll still be able to hear his contributions, especially if you listen through headphones. Joining Benjamin are the regular hosts David Hartley, Janet Harbord and Alex Widdowson.

Contact us on cinemautism[at]gmail[dot]com if you'd like to contribute, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. 

The Reason I Jump (2020) dir. Jerry Rothwell

The Reason I Jump (2020) dir. Jerry Rothwell

January 14, 2022

The Reason I Jump is the most contemporary film we've covered so far, and we were glad to be able to sit in actual cinema auditoriums to watch this complex and fascinating documentary. We enjoyed the audiovisual treats of the film, we appreciated the international outlook, and acknowledged how unusual it is to see minimally-verbal autistic individuals on screen. But we had plenty of questions about how the narratives of autism are presented. We address some of the controversies surrounding Facilitated Communication, while also reflecting on whether the film has been made for a neurotypical audience and, therefore, may just be another in a long line of voyeuristic films about the condition. Are the subjects infantalised? Should the scene of meltdown have been included? Is there too much Othering going on? Our discussion generates a lot of questions, but we still find elements of the film that we will continue to value and treasure. A fascinating discussion!

The Reason I Jump is available to rent on YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon, among others. It is directed by Jerry Rothwell and based on the book of the same name by Naoki Higashida, translated by David Mitchell.

Discussing the film in this episode are Janet Harbord, John-James Laidlow, David Hartley and Alex Widdowson.   

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) dir. Henry Selick

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) dir. Henry Selick

December 24, 2021

Merry festivities! Happy yuletide, one and all, and welcome to... Halloween Town? In a our special festive episode David, Ethan, John-James and Janet gather around the logfire to consider the tales of the musical animation The Nightmare Before Christmas. We were entranced by the protagonist Jack Skellington as an optimistic dreamer who seems to be on a different wavelength to those around him, while his eventual beau Sally watches from the fringes. Perhaps their eventual union is based on neurodivergent romantics? A community of disability is identified among the residents of Halloween Town, and how that helps us relate to the nonsensical nature of the movie musical. We also considered the rumoured autism of creator Tim Burton and how this shapes our interpretation of his singular cinematic vision.

Want to contribute to our discussions? Email us on cinemautism@gmail.com with your thoughts on this film, or any of the films we've considered so far.

Have a great festive season - we'll be back in January with more episodes. 

Cars (2006) dir. John Lasseter

Cars (2006) dir. John Lasseter

December 10, 2021

We take to the racetrack and speed, drift and power our way through the colourful world or Pixar's Cars this week, as brought to us by special guest Ash Loydon. Ash is an autistic illustrator and huge film fan, and his enthusiasm for the exploits of Lightning McQueen and Mater are utterly infectious. We reflect on what it is about the smooth edges and expressive faces of John Lasseter's cartoon vehicles that appeals to Ash and his autistic family, and how such franchise can appeal to the tendencies of autistic people to take pleasures from collecting and collating memorabilia. We also enjoyed the sensory world in the lovingly created landscapes of the film, and considered how the careful pacing appeals to the autistic mindframe. We consider the cars themselves as living objects, and greatly enjoyed the depth of the fantasy of the extended world.

Ash Loydon's art can be seen on his website http://ashsarthole.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Twitter for his latest news: https://twitter.com/AshtonLamont

Joining Ash today were John-James Laidlow, David Hartley, Janet Harbord, and Alex Widdowson.

If you're enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and you can review us on Apple Podcast. We're also very happy to receive feedback or comments - just email us on cinemautism@gmail.com

Phenomena (1985) dir. Dario Argento

Phenomena (1985) dir. Dario Argento

November 26, 2021

We take a grisly turn this week with a foray into the violent, haunting, and dangerous world of Dario Argento via his bizarre 1985 giallo horror Phenomena (known as Creepers in the US). Jennifer Connolly stars as an american schoolgirl adrift in a Swiss academy while a brutal killer stalks the wilderness outside. We were intrigued by the eponymous phenomena of telepathic insects and enjoyed the film's brief considerations of insect minds as a form of neurodiversity. We also enjoyed Argento's signature cinematic energy as a potential expression of autistic sensory intensity, but we struggled with the excessive violence and ableism of the film's final melodramatic act. We also gave due consideration to the chimpanzee Inga, who we all agreed was the film's finest actor...  

Our extra special guest for this episode is autistic researcher, musician and beekeeper Dr Gemma Williams. We loved having Gemma on the show and we would urge you all to check out her research papers and her brilliant musical output. You can find links to all of Gemma's work here:

https://linktr.ee/DjzemaLouiz

Alongside Gemma, you also hear the thoughts and opinions of our regular hosts John-James Laidlow, Janet Harbord, and David Hartley.

Follow us on twitter @AutismCinema and send us your reflections on our discussions to cinemautism@gmail.com

 

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