A documentary that celebrates the human spirit.
Director: Hana Makki/2014
Street Date: May 2, 2017/Kino Lorber
As One: The Autism Project is a documentary that celebrates the human spirit, and shows an effective program taking place in Abu Dhabi, The United Arab Emirates, to provide many benefits to those individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Following 10 children who were selected to take part in this creative project, As One: The Autism Project shows these children as they participate in a 12 week theatrical and musical program culminating in a performance featuring comedy, dance, and music in front of a specially invited audience in Abu Dhabi.
The obvious stars of this documentary are the children themselves. Each of these children come from different nationalities, languages, and faiths, yet all are united in their unique experiences of living life with Autism.
The obvious stars of this documentary are the children themselves. Each of these children come from different nationalities, languages, and faiths, yet all are united in their unique experiences of living life with Autism. For those who may not have much experience or knowledge with Autism Spectrum Disorder, this is an important documentary as it allows the viewer to establish what should be common knowledge that these are just children, no matter their diagnosis. They are just as unique, gifted, and diverse as any group of children could be. Some are shy, some are outgoing, while others have a knack for comedy (including one child who loves and imitates the mannerisms of Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean to hilarious effect), and others with gifts of singing. Each child is challenged to grow in these gifts, and to challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones to achieve something very unique through this one-of-a-kind program.
The film also gives a strong voice to the parents who provide the other half of the picture for each of these 10 children. Some of the joys and struggles of parenting are discussed, as well as their unique struggles helping their children achieve beyond whatever barriers they face from being on the Autism Spectrum. Parents are simply parents who love their children, no matter the ethnic, religious, or cultural diversity that exists among them. What emerges from their interviews is a shared experience that all can relate to as they help each other to be better advocates and champions for their children.
The main centerpiece that brings these children and parents together is of course the youth center in Abu Dhabi that is hosting this program. We get a chance to see the many varied backgrounds of the workers, therapists, musicians, theatrical staff, and trainers who converge from all over the world to bring their own unique experiences to help shape and guide this program from simple idea to actual script, choreography, original song, and performance. With only 12 weeks to put on this performance, a task that is monumental with any group of students, they remain flexible as they encounter unique problems related to the specific aspects of each child’s Autism that could become an obstacle to pulling off this performance. Things that most might not think about, like the vivid colors of simple wall decorations irritating a child with color sensitivity for example, are shown, and highlight that everyone with Autism experiences it differently. This means that, like this staff demonstrate, one must simply roll with it and work together to come up with flexible solutions.
While the goal of the project is ambitious, the cause is one worthy of the struggle. The film culminates in the performances, but the real point of the documentary is the journey. While the film highlights the very real issues facing those families who are affected with Autism, the film remains an upbeat and an enjoyable celebration of these children, as tangible progress is observed. When an original song is sung by one of the children as the show’s finale, the viewer will be on their feet as well.
Kino Lorber has released this DVD in the United States. The film contains a trailer, and is offered in 1.85:1, 16×9, and is 82 minutes long. English and Arabic are spoken throughout the documentary, and it features English subtitles. The sound is either 2.0 or 5.1 surround, and the documentary is filmed in color.
The images used in this review are used only as a reference to the film and do not necessarily reflect the visual quality of the DVD.