Autism Through Cinema
Daniel Bendelman - autistic video artist

Daniel Bendelman - autistic video artist

July 8, 2022

In the second of a series of special episodes featuring autistic creatives, Janet and Ethan welcome the wonderful Daniel Bendelman to the podcast. Daniel is an autistic video artist and PhD student at The University of Kent whose work attempts to expose the power dynamics of autism representation through video art and performance-based installations. In particular, the team discuss Daniel's remarkable installation for 'Fragments', where Daniel performed the writing of his medical history next to a looped sequence from Rain Man, and his compelling short film 'The Life and Death of an Anonymous Autistic Man', produced by DYSPLA in 2018.

Daniel reflects on the influences of Michel Foucault and Franz Kafka on his work, and digs into his history as a person diagnosed as Aspergers at a childhood age and how his art practice humanises those experiences. There's also time for discussion around the complicated history of the term 'Aspergers' itself, from its removal from the DSM to the troubling associations of Hans Asperger with the Nazi regime.

Read more about Daniel in his interview with Colin Hambrook on Disability Arts Online: https://disabilityarts.online/magazine/opinion/daniel-bendelman-disrupting-the-gaze/ 

The imagery from Daniel's installation 'Fragments' can be viewed here via Gorm Ashurst's photography: https://www.gorminator.com/2015/06/fragments/ 

An expert from Daniel's film 'Life and Death of an Anonymous Autistic Man' can be viewed on DYSPLA: https://dyspla.com/Anonymous-Autistic-Man_film 

Have you seen any of Daniel's work? What are your thoughts? Do get in touch with us on cinemautism@gmail.com to join in with the conversation.

 

True Stories (1986)

True Stories (1986)

June 24, 2022

Same as it ever was! Same as it ever was!

Today we're in the company of the great David Byrne, the lead singer of Talking Heads, and his one and only feature film True Stories. There are, as Alex suggests, 'big-time autistic vibes' around Byrne in the film, but also in the sensibility of the way the film is structured and presented. We enjoy being led through the world of the film through the eyes of an autistic individual, leading us to question whether an autistic sensibility resists or challenge conventional narrative forms. We discuss the diagrammatic nature of the narrative and how that provides a sense of a soothing order, as well as a Brechtian distance, while also reflecting on Byrne's interest in technofuturism.  

The film in this episode was recommended to us by listener Analotta Pauly, who sent us a link to this brilliant article on Medium: https://medium.com/counterarts/david-byrnes-true-stories-as-a-search-for-autistic-connection-43629c62cd07

We're always keen to hear from our listeners, so please do drop us a message on cinemautism@gmail.com if you'd like to suggest films for us to consider in the future.

Alicia Radage - neurodivergent video artist

Alicia Radage - neurodivergent video artist

June 10, 2022

In the first of a series of special episodes talking with neurodivergent and autistic filmmakers and film workers, we welcome video artist Alicia Radage to the podcast. Alicia's practice combines performance art, shamanistic ritual and videography that attempts to reach an understanding of neurodivergent connections to the 'more-than-human'. We discovered her through brilliant Shape Arts commission 'Quake', where she performs a ritualistic cycle of singing, meditating and dancing for worms - find the link to the work below. We discussed the possibilities of a neurodivergent aesthetic, how film allows performance artists to make enriched use of time and detail, and problems with the terms 'high and low functioning'.

We also spent some time talking with John-James Laidlow, our regular host, about his video work Another Way is Possible and Peeling Tatties, available to view on his website. Recently, John-James has decided to step down from the podcast as a regular host so we'd like to say a big thank you to John-James for all his brilliant contributions to Autism Through Cinema

A quick word of warning: there is some use of strong language in this episode, so please use caution if that is an issue for you. Also, Alicia's work that we link to below on her website contains nudity and some challenging themes.

Huge thanks to Alicia for agreeing to be on the podcast and for being such a fascinating guest!

Alicia Radage's website: https://www.aliciaradage.com/

Quake on Shape Arts: https://www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/watch-quake-a-new-performance-work-from-alicia-radage 

Quake on Alicia's website: https://www.aliciaradage.com/quake (CW: nudity)

Alicia at the Whitstable Biennale with MOTHER BENT, 11th June: https://whitstablebiennale.com/project/mother-bent/ 

Alicia as part of 'The Healing Collective' at Giant Gallery in Bournemouth from the 19th June: https://www.giant.space/upcoming 

John-James Laidlow's video work: https://john-james.hotglue.me/ 

The philosopher Erin Manning's book Always More than One: https://www.dukeupress.edu/always-more-than-one 

Autistic musician John Biddulph and his moss music: https://johnbiddulph.bandcamp.com/album/perambulations-i 

The Batman (2022) dir. Matt Reeves

The Batman (2022) dir. Matt Reeves

May 27, 2022

We're back! Thank you for bearing with us while we spent some time recording some new episodes.

First up, we find ourselves in Matt Reeves's gloomy new vision of Gotham City. We are prompted to use 'The Batman' as a way of doing self-reflection about the stereotypes perpetuated by autism-focused media, but we also find discussion points among the tricky representation of neurodivergence found in superheroes and supervillains. In particular, we tackle the relationship between incel culture and autism via Paul Dano's latest version of The Riddler, while also entertaining the possibility that Robert Pattinson's emo Bruce Wayne may also display traits of autistic tendency. And what of Gotham itself? A city that has descended into a dystopia of neurotypical dominance?

The parody of Autism Speaks and The Guardian which leads our discussion, as found by Alex Widdowson: https://www.instagram.com/p/CawTdTLr6t0/

ContraPoints on Incels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD2briZ6fB0

Thanks for listening! Do get in touch with us via cinemautism@gmail.com to suggest future episodes or to contribute to the discussions. We'll read out our favourite correspondance in a future recording!

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. 

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