Date(s) - 20/11/2016
At three years old, the lively child that was Owen Suskind disappeared into autism and silence ceasing to speak or engage, unable to express his thoughts and feelings. Almost four years passed when out of nowhere Owen began to communicate through the language of Disney films. For Owen the films gave him a tool with which to break the confines of his disability, to engage and to grow. Life Animated follows Owen’s journey to adulthood and independence and tells the story of his own Disney-esque triumphs.
This Illuminate presentation of Life Animated will be followed by a panel discussion exploring life with autism, disability and notions of difference and acceptance.
Adam Harris – As I Am
Vickie Kirkpatrick – Senior Speech and Language Therapist, COPE Foundation
Stuart Neilson – Advocate, academic and blogger.
Richard Warden – Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival
Winner, Directing Award, Sundance Film Festival 2016
Winner, Audience Award, San Francisco International Film Festival 2016
Review: In ‘Life, Animated,’ a Bound Mind Finds Freedom, by Jeannette Catsoulis.
The disparity between what we want for our children and what they might achieve can be especially painful for parents of autistic youngsters. Yet you’d barely know that from Roger Ross Williams’s relentlessly cheerful documentary, Life, Animated. Like the Disney movie clips that flood its frames, this too-tentative look at how a bound mind found freedom in animation leaves us in little doubt of a happy ending.
Not that there aren’t some misty moments as the writer and journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia, recall how their son Owen suddenly became silent at the age of 3.
“It’s like we were looking for clues to a kidnapping,” Mr. Suskind says, vividly evoking the family’s loss. And when Owen, years later, began to communicate through the dialogue of his favorite Disney characters — who probably receive at least as much screen time as he does — his parents were relieved to discover that his comprehension transcended memorization. But fairy tales can take Owen (now an extraordinarily high-functioning young man of 25), and the film, only so far, and the limited template these stories provide for navigating the world is a bruise that Mr. Williams declines to press too hard.
Consequently, as Owen — consistently more daring than his director — acquires a girlfriend and an assisted-living apartment, Mr. Williams’s decision to prioritize his subject’s point of view feels frustratingly restrictive. Belaboring the cartoon connection, the director leaves the family struggles that enrich Mr. Suskind’s 2014 book of the same title stubbornly veiled.
Only when we listen to Walt Suskind, Owen’s devoted older brother, contemplate the burden that lies ahead does the film crack its upbeat veneer and expose a much-needed nerve. Owen, we can see, is doing fine; perhaps it’s Walt we should be worried about.
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Producer(s): Julie Goldman, Roger Ross Williams
Screenwriter(s): Ron Suskind
Main Cast: Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried
Country: France, USA
Duration: 89 minutes
Tickets: €7.00 / €6.00 Concession