World Autism Acceptance Week - Encouraging empathy with short film

25 Mar 2022 in Into Film+

4 mins
My Brother Luca
My Brother Luca

World Autism Acceptance Week (28 March - 3 April 2022) and the accompanying World Autism Awareness Day (2 April) should be at the forefront of educators' calendars, as we all seek to create a society that works for autistic people.

When approaching this topic, your first point of call should of course be experts in the field and we'd highly recommend the ideas, tips and resources from the National Autistic Society.

Film can also play a key role, both in bringing education to life for autistic young people and in authentically presenting their experiences to others. After all, film is a visual and accessible medium that facilitates empathy and understanding in a uniquely effective way. We've collected our favourite professionally and youth-made shorts below that do just that, all of which are available for free* on Into Film+.

First up is Joe Blandamer's brilliant stop-motion animation Overload, which won Best Animation at the 2020 Into Film Awards and depicts what it feels like to have autism and ride on a busy train. Joe is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and wanted to make a personal film that really shows how it feels to be on the spectrum.

Our profile on Joe and his filmmaking process is also really enlightening and he had this to say about what animation means to him, specifically as someone with Asperger's syndrome: "Animating has helped me with my Asperger's because it has given me an outlet to communicate my ideas, My new film Overload helped me explain the way my Asperger's affects me. I get so fixated whilst animating that I accidentally spend an entire day animating without breaks because it brings me such an intense feeling. If it wasn't for my Asperger's I wouldn't be animating!"

Next up are two professionally produced short films, both of which are most suitable for 7-14-year-olds. Louis' Shoes is a French animation that follows an eight-year old boy starting a new school. With the help of the teacher, he gets ready to introduce his class by removing his shoes. He explains how this makes him feel safe and gives the class an insight into his internal world, sharing his favorite hobbies as well as the things he fears. This short is told entirely from Louis' perspective, with the animated style depicting his experience of the world as an autistic person. The film is a valuable resource for discussing autism as well as how filmmaking can be used to tell stories from diverse perspectives.

My Brother Luca is also animated and sees a young girl narrating the story of her younger brother, describing him as ‘special'. She talks about his superpowers, such as his amazing hearing, fantastic memory and incredible work ethic. Despite the concerns of those around her, Luca's sister doesn't worry about her brother, safe in the knowledge of his abilities, and instead wonders whether other superheroes may have autism too. A warm, animated short which both serves as an introduction to autism and celebrates sibling relationships.

Head to our profile of specialist school for young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), The Hollies, for more information on using film with your autistic students. Meanwhile, a guest writer from Into Film and one from the BFI came together last year to discuss how you can create autism friendly film clubs and screenings.

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