A few days ago, we attended Autfest, the first of hopefully many movie festivals dedicated to autism. This year’s festival, which is the brainchild of Ed and Matt Asner along with The Autism Society of America, featured fifteen movies made about living with autism and by those living with autism.
Attending celebrities included Ben Affleck for The Accountant and Pixar Filmmakers Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera for Inside Out. We enjoyed several interactive Q&A sessions, and our son and I had a splendid time chatting with producers, actors, and parents of kids with autism. We are already looking forward to next year’s lineup. Here are our top seven reasons why we enjoyed #autfest so much.
Everyone was friendly and non-judgmental
As I mentioned before, this was the first year of this particular festival. We saw many families with kids on the spectrum, advocates, and some celebrities. Since it was more of an intimate affair, people got to sit and chat. We all got to know each other on a more personal basis.
Furthermore, because many people there were on the autism spectrum, I didn’t have to explain why my son exhibits certain behaviors. Nobody was judging, people understood and were friendly which was great.
Many of the celebrities were also super patient. They even chatted with my son, listening to his many ideas and opinions at length. Our son got to sit and talk with Pete Docter of Inside Out for awhile, and he was ecstatic. I was touched that a person like Pete Docter took the time to listen to my son.
Autism Friendly environment
The locale that they chose was a state of the art AMC theater. AMC and Autism Society have an eight-year partnership for promoting sensory friendly screening. On a regular basis, every second and fourth Saturday of the month they show autism-friendly screenings for children. On Tuesday evenings, they also show autism-friendly screenings for mature audiences. Therefore, AMC was already pretty much prepared for the event.
The theater featured comfortable seating and an extensive food venue inside the movie theater. We could sit and have a bite during the day without leaving the theater.
During the showings, they kept a little bit of light on to make the premises autism friendly. Nobody cared if people walked in and out or got up in the middle of the movie. Nobody minded our son who likes to comment on what he sees on the screen, an issue in a regular setting.
We enjoyed Hyundai’s giveaways
Hyundai cars sponsored this year’s event, and they had the brilliant idea of handing out fidget toys. We also got excellent sensory pens, which looked like little people with long hair that one could play with and feel.
Every movie had a unique angle
We only managed to fully attend the second day, Sunday, and watch three of the films. However, even these three films all featured a unique angle when it came to showing life with autism.
The most touching movie was by far ‘Po.’ This movie depicted a father trying to raise his son with autism after becoming a widower.We’d hoped to see “Life, Animated,” a film about the story of Owen Suskind who communicates to his family through Disney movies, which I’d heard was fantastic.However, we missed the screening.A second favorite was the ‘The Buddy System’ a movie about the Northstar Foundation raising service dogs for autism. Needless to mention we fell in love with the pups, and our son is busy saving to get one!
Inspiring teens and young adults to explore job opportunities
Though our son was reluctant to come and attend at first, Autfest inspired him to try and finally get that movie script that he has always thought about writing. After chatting with several celebrities and film industry professionals who encouraged him to start, I’m happy to say that he is writing away on his laptop. He got to speak to ‘Inside Out’ Pete Docter! Hopefully, we will get to read something soon.
This festival provided everyone, including my son and I, with a unique opportunity not only to meet celebrities and professionals but listen to their ideas and thoughts during the Q&A that followed each of the films shown. The story behind the movie ‘Po ‘particularly touched us to hear. The producer shared how he weaved some of his personal stories with his son on the spectrum into the plot.
The festival gave families an opportunity to discuss personal topics
This two-day festival helped us connect with parents from around the LA area and beyond.
We shared personal stories and compared notes on how to help our kids. I was particularly interested in chatting with parents of young adults and hearing about the work and career possibilities for our son.
One of the people that inspired us after meeting him was Dan Gross, who is a young filmmaker on the autism spectrum and who participated in the movie “The Buddy System.” I got a unique opportunity to speak to his mother, Ms. Gross, that runs the North Star project with autism service dogs, a great discussion as we are interested in a dog too.
Parents walked away with much-needed hope
After attending, I as a parent felt more encouraged and inspired by hearing other people’s stories and how they faced their life challenges. This festival provided parents like me with an excellent opportunity to meet not only other parents but young adults, aspiring actors, and aspiring movie makers. It gave everyone hope that we were not alone.
Have you attended this year’s Autfest? We would love to hear how you liked it.