Autism finds a new platform

A new documentary, Behind The Glass Wall, delves into the world of the autistic, and probes how their inability to socialise and communicate with the world affects them

The world of an autistic person and their many challenges is the focus of an 80-minute documentary, Behind The Glass Wall. Set for release later this week, the film is directed by award-winning filmmaker Arunaraje Patil and has been produced by Gaahimedia for Shraddha Charitable Trust and SPJ Sadhana School.

Autism is a a disorder of the brain that causes a life-long development disability affecting social abilities. Representative pic

It looks at issues faced by individuals with autism and their families. It also tries to communicate how autism is not a disease and is, in fact, a disorder of the brain that causes a life-long development disability, affecting communication and social abilities.

Autism matters
Speaking of the plight of autistic individuals, the filmmaker says, “What might take a normal child five minutes to learn, would probably take an autistic person a year or two to learn. What’s worse is that this disability is for life; it is not a disease and cannot be cured. Even so, a lot is possible for them.” The film demonstrates how with the right kind of intervention and training, even the severely autistic can be employed in workshops and integrated into society.

The film was conceptualised as a short film on the Shraddha Charitable Trust, which is a workshop for people with special needs, particularly the autistic. However, once the filmmaker started researching the topic, she realised a documentary was a better choice. Patil elaborates, “There was so much ignorance about autism that a feature film needed to be made. There were issues at almost every level — from the time the autistic were infants to late adulthood.

I convinced Radhike Khanna (trustee of Shraddha Charitable Trust) that the Trust needed to make an additional film to create awareness and in the same budget.”

The film advocates that with proper training, autistic individuals can progress in life
The film advocates that with proper training, autistic individuals can progress in life

There might be books on autism, forums, special schools and NGOs but Patil feels it’s a drop in the ocean. “There are pediatricians who don’t know what autism is, and misguide parents. The education system doesn’t fully support the special needs of such children. They are admitted in regular schools that cause more damage than good. Special educators are few and their training is not what it needs to be,” she observes.

The filmmaker spent months reading on the topic. She also faced several challenges: “It was a challenge to listen to parents speak about their traumatic experiences; it would be emotionally draining. Even the crew experienced it. However, I was blown away by the commitment of the teachers and the fortitude of the parents, especially mothers, who stood by their kids. As a unit, we had to be alert to take a shot and capture the children’s behaviour instantly on camera.” The film launch will also have a panel discussion that will feature speakers such as psychiatrist Dr Ashith Sheth, pediatric neurologist Dr Anahita Udwadia Hegde and Dr Kale, Head of Psychiatric Department at JJ Hospital.

On: January 9, 4 pm to 7 pm
At: Nehru Science Centre, Dr E Moses Road, Worli.
Call: 24920482

School, and other Dharavi dreams
England-born filmmaker Laila Khan’s seven-minute short film 6 Cup Chai that was a part of the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival 2014,  will have its first screening in Mumbai, as a part of the 13th Third Eye Asian Film Festival. The short revolves around young Chotu, a tea-seller in Dharavi slums who wishes to attend school like other children. The film hopes to convey the importance of child education.

Dharavi dreams

“When I visited India last year, I discovered many young children being forced to work, rather than study, to help support their families. I was saddened and felt the need to highlight this issue. We shot at a real slum in Dharavi, which is almost a character in this film. That, itself, was an interesting experience for an outsider like me,” says Khan, who has worked previously as production assistant on Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban and directed Before I Was Me, under her production banner, Brainworks Picture Company.

On: Today, 11.30 am onwards
At: Mini theatre, Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi.
Call: 24365990

In the pipeline

Arunaraje Patil is working on a documentary on an aggressive autistic girl who was trained to express herself through art and dance. She is also working on two films which showcase how the mentally challenged are beginning to be integrated in mainstream society.

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