Autism is a highly misunderstood condition that is so varied among individuals that manifesting symptoms can be difficult to delineate. Raising awareness of the condition and its symptoms and vagaries is the goal of a new documentary/movie due out soon. As covered by Fox:
It’s been two and a half years since a film crew traveled more than 10,000 miles in 40 days covering The United States of Autism. Their trip took them through northwest Iowa to the Wessels family in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Now the documentary is weeks away from its big screen debut during Autism Awareness Month.
“This is just an idea that starting in our living room, three, a little over three years ago. And we were like, okay, let’s see what we can do,” says Richard Everts, documentary director.
Director Richard Everts and his crew spent the summer of 2010 traveling the country, highlighting 20 families, including his own.
“One of the reasons that I did set out on this trip was to learn how to help my own son,” says Everts.
Along the way, he met the Wessels from Rock Rapids, Iowa, whose son Sam has autism.
“You know, life is hard for most people. I’m one of them,” says Sam Wessels.
Everts says Sam’s story plays a critical role in the film, especially because of his mother Lin’s advocacy work. She talked with every presidential candidate in 2012 about autism. But during filming, Lin worried about how her family would be represented.
“Is our message clear? Yeah, how we’re portraying ourselves, is it accurate?” says Lin Wessels.
“She doesn’t mince words. She tells you what she thinks, she tells you what she believes and I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says but that’s okay, that’s not the point of the film. The point of the film is for her to be able to say what she believes and we’ll let the audience decide what they want to believe,” says Everts.
And focus groups have already changed the direction of the film, even before it hits the big screen.
“We want to hear more from people who have autism. And we were like, okay. So we ended up actually rewriting a lot of the film to be able to highlight people to have autism and be able to get what it actually is in their own words,” says Everts.
Now the nation is set to hear Sam’s story and others like him, putting a face to the disorder.
“I hope it brings greater awareness and a better understanding,” says Lin Wessels.
“Connect this story to the American story and show people that they can learn so much from these families affected by autism,” says Everts.
The documentary’s debut is set for April 5th in New York City, with four other screenings already scheduled. Everts says he’s working with Lin Wessels to set up showings here in northwest Iowa and hopes to announce those dates in the next few weeks. 25% of the documentary’s profits will stay in each community that hosts a screening.
You can learn more about “The United States of Autism” online at www.usofautism.com and on its Facebook page. Soundtrack here.
Reported by Erika Thomas of Fox News: firstname.lastname@example.org.