Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Short documentary films on Asperger's Syndrome; and a note on Obama's "American Stories"


"David Jordan’s Documentary on Asperger’s Syndrome", about 9 minutes, is a short film available on a site named Trusera. The film does not actually have a format title or credit frame.

David is now a young adult who appears to have grown up in Great Britain. He describes his interest in geology and interest in collecting and classifying specimens (how many of us would know there are faults in the British Isles?) He talks about Asperger’s as not being able to interpret body language of people outside of the literal meaning of what they say. He presents a scene with chimpanzees playing in a zoo, where they use body language to communicate their need for social contact in play or need for attention or assistance. The video also shows a brief scene from an Asperger’s support group. The film is longer and has more substance and variety of visual content than most videos on Youtube and would make an effective entry in a short documentary film program.

The film may be viewed from this website.

That web page also offers a 19 minute video by Alex Plank and Yellow Sneakers Media, “Going to College with Asperger’s Syndrome.” Here Plank, now a senior at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, describes his experience as a college student with Asperger’s. There are some audience questions, which are hard to hear on the video. The lighting has a bit of a yellow cast (matching the sneakers), so Plank’s hair looks darker than it did on his NBC4 appearance today where he discussed the experience with reporters. He is majoring in film and video. He mentions having applied to William and Mary (of interest to me because of my own history, dating back to 1961). He talks about doing very well on standardized tests but having to take most tests on a computer because of handwriting problems, and about difficulties in organizing some assignments. The University does have programs to accommodate his needs, as do other colleges, although the availability of these programs is recent. There is even coaching in handling roommates (that would have helped me in 1961). College, he says, was easier to adjust to than high school Plank is the founder of the “Wrong Planet” website here. According to the NBC4 broadcast, he is making a documentary feature on the subject

In 2004 CNN had aired a 40 minute documentary directed by Geraldine Wurzburg about a female college student with full autism called “Autism Is a World”. Asperger’s is sometimes characterized as “higher functioning autism” although that may not be always accurate. Some people say that it can be confused with “schizoid personality”, which involves emotional disconnection from others in social situations where it is normally expected. But it’s debatable if “schizoid personality” (as negative as it sounds) is really a mental disorder, or if it is more predicated on the demands of society for socialization of individuals.

Just another note, a bit off topic: Barack Obama’s paid 30-minute spot (“American Stories”) on NBC and other networks tonight (Oct. 29, 2008) was a “real film,” showing real people with real family responsibilites hit hard by the crisis. Obama (perhaps echoing Suze Orman) mentioned the need to "be my brother's keep and my sister's keeper" and Biden, curiously, talked about loose nukes. As for filmmaking, did Obama have the help of Oprah’s Harpo Productions? The film also brings up the issue of Obama's raising money from private sources without federal funds.

Picture: Rogers Hall, on the William and Mary campus in Williamsburg. When I attended, it housed chemistry and physics.

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