Movie Review : Beautiful Pain

Shining a Light on Autism

July 11 2017 -- The film "Beautiful Pain" held its Philippine gala premiere at the SM Megamall Cinema 1

The autism advocacy community came to support the film which represented Malaysia at the 89th Academy Awards and the 74th Golden Globe Awards.

Director Tunku Mona Riza has been gratified by the response of the global autism community. The filmmaker deliberately researched on autism for more than 2 years and worked with advocates at the National Autism Society of Malaysia,resulting in the instructional simplicity in the handling of autism as an allied medical subject matter.

The film started with a family of three swimming and playing in the waters of an island resort in Malaysia.The kid,Danial,lives with his parents Alina and Razlan. The early signs of his autism played out and were noticed by his mother.

The lead characters' strained emotional bond is balanced by the kindness of Alina who is accepting of her son's diagnosis. Through her journey, she finds a supportive network of advocates in her college friend, her sister, and her friends. His father, Razlan struggles to accept his son’s condition, resulting in bursts of anger and frustration. He eventually finds inspiration in the perspective of a stranger, who sees how amazing his son is, instead of the flaws. Over the span of eight years the film paints a portrait of awakening, patience and hope.

I once thought autism meant a lot of inabilities: cannot talk, cannot switch topics, cannot give eye contact, cannot handle transitions or new routines, cannot read social cues, cannot control motor movements, etc. And I once thought some of the can-dos were not necessarily “adaptive”; perseverates on the same activity or conversational topic, gets anxious in uncertain situations, uses aggressive and/or destructive behavior, engages in self-injurious behavior.  I assumed – as too many people still do – that intellectual disability was a part of the package.

So what happened to change my views on all of this? I got to know some autistic people and watched documentaries and films such as Beautiful Pain  about people with autism who had acquired the ability to communicate, verbally or through pictures/typing, as well as some who did not yet communicate in any kind of traditional manner. I began to “presume competence” rather than make assumptions on face value. And I paid attention (or at least tried) in order to interpret meaning from the point of view of the people I met, not just from my own point of view. There are still too many people who make important life decisions for autistic children and adults based on limited understandings and prejudicial attitude.

Non-autistic people need to know and be helped to understand that our life experiences cannot be used to judge or value the behavior, appearance or needs of an autistic person.

So that brings us to self-advocacy. We non-autistic people MUST listen and learn from those who are autistic. We must do what we can to support self-advocacy and dispel the myths about autism in the public and professional communities. The Autism community must remain vigilant in its outreach, community education, and demand for inclusion in public policy decisions. Awareness of what it means to be autistic is still lacking for the world at large. Acceptance of autism as a natural condition in the human experience is necessary for real dialogue to occur.

Movie Review : Patricia Curitana
Edited : AXLPowerhouse

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