Documentary highlights autism spectrum disorder through the lives of three children
In Our World, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Shreedhar B.S. will premiere at the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa on January 18. Produced by Mr. Shreedhar’s Shred Creative Lab Private Ltd, the film highlights autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through the lives of three children.
The 51-minute documentary, without any voice-overs, has made an attempt to unpack the world of the autistic children, their families and bring about a nuanced understanding of ASD. The film includes candid interviews of parents and therapists; their day-to-day activities like swimming classes, horse-riding and music lessons; and their special moments with parents.
“I have tried to move away from clinical analysis and understanding. There is too much of it everywhere, anyway. Rather, my take was to show them as regular kids who do have certain behavioural issues but nothing that cannot be handled or tackled to bring them within the folds of ‘normal’ society,” Mr. Shreedhar said.
“I chose three students who were autistic; followed them in their daily lives along with their parents in an effort to document their daily lived experiences and bring to the world snapshots of their lives that are extraordinary in all its ordinariness. Where simple acts of eating a fruit on his own, or asking for food on his own, completing school homework without help, become little victories,” he said.
Mr. Shreedhar said the film was the result of four to five months of research, six months of shooting and post-production. He said he did not want a scripted narrative in the film, rather wanted the film to take a course of its own. The filmmaker said he stitched the interviews together along with the activities and the therapy sessions to bring out the message.
“It is a film that raises awareness of ASD not by preaching in moralistic terms or advising in clinical terms, but by busting myths and misconceptions and presenting their lives in all its honesty,” he said.
“The message is of assimilation. We are all well aware of how autistic children are perceived: they are sidelined, treated as abnormal. Often such children end up having no friends; they are not invited to birthday parties or social gatherings,” he added.
The ostracism is real, he said. “So through this film, I wish to dispel the popular, uninformed misconceptions that float around ASD; showcase their lives in all its day-to-day reality to drive home this message that they are like any other children,” he said.
The filmmaker said the children do have their share of problems but none so great that cannot be handled with love and understanding. “We ought to accept them for who they are and bring them into the folds of our society so that there is one world; a world where children are not discriminated for their flaws but loved for their qualities.”
He added, “One world, our world, where each one has a unique role to play can pave the way for a more inclusive society and that is the essence of the movie.” Mr. Shreedhar said he might make a documentary on adult autistic persons to highlight their challenges.
Roughly 23 of every 10,000 children in India have autism. About 1 in 100 children in the country under the age of 10 has autism and nearly 1 in 8 has at least one neurodevelopmental conditions, according to research.