Autism Documentary Falls Short Of Academy Award
“O.J.: Made in America” won the best-documentary Oscar Sunday night, taking the prize over a film focused on autism.
Nominee “Life, Animated,” directed by previous Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams, details how Owen Suskind, now 25, developed regressive autism at age 3 and stopped speaking, how he reconnected to his family and the outside world through Disney animated movies, and how he now lives and works on his own in Hyannis, Mass.
The movie is based on the 2014 book written by Owen Suskind’s father, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, and premiered in January 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival. Over the past year, it has played at dozens of festivals around the United States and United Kingdom, and won multiple awards from audiences, festivals and industry groups. Among them: the Audience Award at the Nantucket Film Festival and an Annie Award for the many animated scenes used to show Owen Suskind’s thoughts, childhood and stories.
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“Life, Animated” also includes scenes of Owen Suskind at the Riverview School in East Sandwich, Mass., from which he graduated in 2015, and where he founded a Disney Club that still helps students. The movie also shows scenes from Owen Suskind’s life in Cape Cod, Mass. where he is busy with jobs at Toys “R” Us and Regal Cinemas at the Cape Cod Mall, a Tuesday radio show of Disney music on WKKL at Cape Cod Community College, and art and piano lessons.
Several of Owen Suskind’s family, friends and teachers have said the movie has already made a difference by helping viewers and even medical researchers rethink what autism means, what obstacles can be overcome and how powerful storytelling can be.
Owen Suskind told the Cape Cod Times that he’s glad the movie shows his family’s love and caring, and that he’s “just a regular guy who has challenges, but who also has talents, too.”
Tim Miller contributed to this report.
© 2017 Cape Cod Times
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