This guest blog post is by filmmaker Micha Hilliard. His short film "I'll Be Fine" is a documentary about his 19-year-old cousin Tim, who is on the autism spectrum, and his parents, Richard and Rebecca. The film offers a candid look into the lives of a family affected by autism as told by them. Watch it below.
I still don’t know why my cousin’s family agreed to the project. Sure, I’m a relative. It would have been only fitting to let me stay for a week and interview them. But to let me live in their basement for two months and film everything? And I mean everything: from morning makeup routines and afternoon naps to evening meals and late night movie viewings. It says a lot about the kind of family that they are.
They’re about as honest as can be. They have nothing to hide. It’d be futile if they tried, since my cousin admittedly can’t keep anything to himself.
His parents have many embarrassing stories to tell of Tim informing people of comments that were made about them at home. My cousin’s memory is keen, his ears sharp. As a family, they’ve thus learned to be open with each other and the world.
This openness is at the very heart of the documentary I made about them. It explains why they were willing to let me live in their basement and capture their story. The film could have easily been partial or circumspect. Thanks to my cousin’s family, though, it’s an earnest look at what life can look like with a child on the autism spectrum.
The emphasis is on “can be.” This is only one of many examples. Each person with autism is different and so is each family’s experience of him or her. A list of symptoms, as important as it is, can’t account for someone’s complexity, humor, and insight. This was very much on my mind when I set out to make my documentary.
I did not want to look at my cousin through the lens of autism, but rather learn about autism through him. By setting aside preconceived ideas about his condition, I tried to give him the chance to use his own words and actions to express himself. Too often, autism is used as a label. Hopefully, the resulting film is able to encourage families, and especially parents, who are going through similar experiences and provide everyone else with a window into another world.