Raising Awareness on the Way to a Screening

Thursday, July 10, 2014 View Comments

This guest post is by John Block, Producer of the acclaimed autism documentary "Sounding The Alarm." Sounding the Alarm that will be available on Netflix on July 15. This film examines the lives of 12 families who live with autism, and chronicles the challenges and opportunities they face from diagnosis to adulthood. This was part of a note John sent to us on a recent experience involving the screening...

It’s been a very interesting and touching last couple of days showing the film in St. Louis and Atlanta and hearing the well-chosen panelists. Insurance, of course, was a big topic of discussion in Atlanta.  All in all, both venues had two very receptive, lovely audiences who have reminded me of the importance of connecting to others by telling stories. In any event, I’m writing to tell all you about the experience of one of the viewers - the taxi driver who drove me from my hotel by the airport to the Emory University screening.  His name is Wale and he is a thirty-something year old Nigerian. Upon arriving at Emory, Wale offered to wait - however many hours, and on his nickel - to return me to the hotel: he didn’t want to fight rush hour traffic, nor waste the gas without a fare.  I invited him to the film.   

You know that I prefer to sit in the back in order watch the audience: I couldn’t help noticing that throughout, Wale was arched forward and intent.  At the conclusion of the panel discussion and the one-on-one chats that followed, I found Wale in his car on the phone.  When I got in, he ended the call and explained to me that the film had dramatically affected his perspective.  He’d heard of autism, but until tonight had known nothing about it.  He told me that people with the kind of behavior demonstrated in the film are seen as “mentally ill” in Nigeria and treated as ‘less thans’. He told me about a neighbor boy with whom he grew up with. He said that many kids poked fun at the boy’s strange mannerisms and jittery hands.  Watching the film, Wale said he’d realized that the boy had autism.  He explained that the phone call that Wale made last night was to some friends in Nigeria who also knew the boy. He told them about the film, about his revelation, and to go on the computer to read about autism. He said he wished that his wife, also from Nigeria, had seen the film. I know it’s coming out on Netflix next week, but I gave him the extra DVD that I’d brought with me.  

Watch a trailer of "Sounding The Alarm" below and remember to stay tuned to Autismspeaks.org on July 15th for updates of the release of the film on Netflix!