Normal Autistic Film

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Normal Autistic Film
"Miroslav Janek's latest documentary aims to immerse us in the lives and views of those who are autistic, shifting the perspective so that the film becomes as much about the way they view the neurotypical as the other way around."

Miroslav Janek's latest documentary aims not to assess and define what it means to be on the autism spectrum but to immerse us in the lives and views of those who are, shifting the perspective so that the film becomes as much about the way they view the neurotypical as the other way around.

His subjects are all youngsters and just as neurotypical kids differ, no two are alike. Lukas, for example, is a joker who has bonded over a love of filmmaking and Quentin Tarrantino with his non-autistic best mate, while Denis is more quiet and introspective, although still wildly creative when he sits down at a piano keyboard. Majda also likes music, expressing her anger at the world and the attitude of others through rap lyrics that declare: “Life is shit.” Finally, there are brother and sister Ahmed and Marjamka, whose mum offers a gentle and positive insight into what living with autism/Asperger's is like for all of them.

Janek goes with the flow, letting the children express their feelings, showing how, in the case of Marjamka and Ahmed, their family has adapted to embrace their difference rather than try to change it. A sense of opposing urges arises – to create order and wreak destruction. As Ahmed puts it when talking about a thing he wants, “it destroys but also sometimes builds”. This turbulence is part and parcel of life for these kids but, while the challenges it presents to them aren't underplayed, Janek also shows the benefits of such rich neurodiversity. It's particularly interesting to see segments where some of the children watch themselves talking to one another and their reaction to it, which again offers a valuable insight into their world view, inviting us to understand it from their perspective rather than try to pick it apart from ours.

Throughout, the camerawork is evocative, trying to capture the emotion of a moment as much as the physicality of it.

Some mention of children who are most badly affected by autism - those who struggle to communicate and live independently - would have served to round out the film further but this it deserves to be celebrated for what it does contain rather than criticised for what it doesn't.

“To me, society is disabled,” says one of the children. After watching this, you're likely to be nodding in agreement.

Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2016
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A personal perspective on autism as a different way of looking at the world rather than a medical problem.

Director: Miroslav Janek

Year: 2016

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Czech Republic

Festivals:

Karlovy 2016

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Too Sane For This World