by Debra Hosseini
Six months ago, Kurt and I decided to spend the $9.95 a month for Netflix Streaming. We both dislike television because of the lack of good programming and excessive commercials.
There are so many wonderful movies about autistic characters. Unfortunately, only a few of them are on Netflix Streaming. I was disappointed that they don’t have Temple Grandin, Adam, Mozart and the Whale, Autism The Musical, or Horse Boy – some of my favorite movies with autistic protagonists. They do, however, offer Rain Man, skillfully portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, yet aren’t we passed this stereotype?
We’ve watched episodes of Parenthood which is about a yuppie family who has a child diagnosed with Aspergers and another TV series Touch, about a savant child who is nonverbal and communicates through patterns of numbers. I really like Touch starring Keifer Sutherland who plays the dad. So sad it’s been cancelled.
Another program on Netflix Streaming that features an autistic character is Doc Martin, a U.K. comedy drama. We’ve only watched a couple episodes of this program. It’s humorous and insightful.
The two documentaries that are relevant to The Art of Autism are “Wretches and Jabberers” and “Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon.” Both of these films feature artists on the autism spectrum.
Wretches and Jabberers is a road-trip movie about two autistic adults who travel to different countries raising autism awareness. Both Larry Bissonette, an artist on the spectrum, who was institutionalized at age nine and pretty much written off, and Tracy Thrasher communicate through typing. Larry Bissonette, who resides in Vermont also communicates quite effectively through his art.
Both Larry and Tracy are spreading an important message. Because one may not be verbal doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent. They have communication facilitators who accompanied them to different countries and conferences who seem like pretty interesting people themselves. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t delve more into their stories.
Both Kurt and I loved this documentary. We highly recommend it.
The other documentary featuring an artist on the spectrum is “Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon,” about the artist Chris Murray. Narrated, produced and directed by his Chris’ brother, Tom, this documentary is a personal account of growing up in a family with autism. However, it goes much deeper in showing generational patterns.
Even before I compiled the Art of Autism books, I was familiar with Chris Murray and his wonderful skylines. I had seen one of Chris’ art pieces at the Mind Institute in Sacramento. He also has art on display at Just Folk in Summerland, California. Unfortunately, when communicating with his mom and brother to be in The Art of Autism book, I got his name mixed up and referred to him as Craig, rather than Chris. A terrible faux pas on my part. I don’t know if that’s why he’s not in The Art of Autism book but I wish he was.
Raised in an idyllic setting of Southhampton, New York this movie explores three generations of the Murray family. The title refers to Chris’ belief that his father who loathed Richard Nixon, was now in heaven with him.
The movie is complex delving into family issues of rejection, bipolar disorder and alcoholism. It shows autism in a much wider context than most movies. It is a story of family and love. Particularly, a mom’s love and dedication to her son. What autism mom can’t relate to that?
Chris is now living independently and has a wonderful career as an artist. A powerful movie about the complexities of families. Highly recommended.
So having written this, what can we do to get more good autism programming on Netflix Streaming? Until then, Kurt and I are watching the original Netflix series Orange is the New Black. We would not want to see an autistic person in this series, because autistic people don’t belong in jails and prisons (and neither do mentally ill people).