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New Documentary on Autism Premieres in Boston

Award-Winning Director John Block Shares His Experiences Working on the Film
January 15, 2014

BOSTON. (January 15, 2014) —The premiere screening of “Sounding the Alarm” kicked off at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Lurie Center for Autism Wednesday evening. The Blockburger Productions documentary provides a poignant look inside the lives of those touched by autism.

“Sounding the Alarm” features Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, who discuss their grandson Christian’s diagnosis nine years ago and their fight to make a difference not only for their grandson but for everyone throughout the world affected by autism.

Emmy-award winning documentarian John Block directed the film. In an e-mail Q and A, Block shared his experiences working on the project:

What inspired you to take this on?

I’ve known and admired Bob and Suzanne Wright since our shared years at NBC. My admiration grew even more when I came to understand their big league efforts to tackle autism, as well as to help improve circumstances for countless other families who, like themselves, are also living with autism. I want to do documentaries of import and substance; when there came an opportunity to help educate myself and others about autism and some of the pressing issues surrounding it, I raised my hand.

Having spent months shooting and editing this film, what did you learn about autism that surprised you most?

One of the advantages of being a documentary filmmaker is that I am in a constant state of learning. In effect, almost everything related to the film surprised me, at least at the beginning, as I knew relatively little about autism from the various standpoints – scientifically, as a matter of public policy, its economic and psychological tolls on families. That said, in addition to the surging prevalence rate, it was especially shocking to learn about the state-to-state inequities when it comes to insurance benefits. It was also disquieting to see up close how unprepared we are as a society to help meet the needs of young adults with autism.

You follow the stories of several individuals with autism and their families. Which story or stories stood out most to you?

Truth be told, they all stood out. I had the privilege of interviewing families in depth, and watching them live their lives – all of them complex. I saw something of the exhaustion, the worries, the pride and the vibrant love that each family displayed. I also saw courage, selfless sacrifice, and beauty.

Was there one individual or family you bonded with during filming?

On some level, I felt a connection with everyone whom I met in the course of doing the documentary. They were all my teachers. What’s more, they were brave and generous enough to share themselves with me and the camera in hopes of helping others.

What do you want people to take away from watching this film?

I want viewers to have a better understanding of autism and some of the attendant issues. I want them to be outraged by the inequities, and inclined to help rectify them. I want people to see that we all have a stake in addressing these critical concerns. Finally, I want them to better recognize the beauty, possibilities and strengths of those with autism.

What's next for you and the film?

Trying to get the film seen by as many folks as possible. Please send out the word!

See slideshow below to view images from the film:

[slideshow:2, order=top, width=585, height=445, ||,img=/sites/default/files/docs/carwash_2.jpg|||Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Fla. employs individuals with autism.||,img=|/sites/default/files/docs/hardywifebaby_100_0847.jpg|||Retired marine Hardy Mills and wife Danielle struggle to provide son Shane with needed therapies.|, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/jesseandson.jpg|||Jesse Mojica and his son Adam celebrate Adam's 14th birthday.||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/kent_says_goodbye.jpg|||Massachusetts native Kent Martling faces uncertain future after aging out of his local program.||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/mcdougleandjacobatboard_u1451006.jpg|||Dr. Christopher McDougle, right, of Mass General's Lurie Center works with a colleague on autism research.||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/wrightswalk.jpg|||Bob and Suzanne Wright with grandson Christian and daughter Katie Wright||, img=|/sites/default/files/docs/premiere_block.jpg|||Dr. Christopher McDougle\, left\, and director John Block at the Boston screening]