Life, Animated, an award-winning film that documents the impact of ‘affinity therapy’ on a young man diagnosed with regressive autism, is set to be shown in US cinemas later this year
Based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, it tells the story of his son Owen who stopped speaking when he was three and immersed himself in watching Disney films and memorising their dialogue.
Four years later Ron embraced his son’s ‘affinity’ using hand puppets and Disney dialogue to reconnect with Owen. He was soon joined by wife Cornelia, older son Walt and professional therapists. Together they spent hours using scenes from Owen’s favourite Disney films to teach him reading, writing, drawing and social skills.
Life, Animated is directed by Roger Ross Williams, who won the Directing Award in US Documentary competition at last month’s Sundance Film Festival. An interview conducted by Amy Goodman with him and Ron and Owen Suskind is available on Democracy Now. In 2010 Williams directed Music by Prudence, about the Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabhena, who was born severely disabled. It won him the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Following its Sundance success, an agreement was reached between global distribution company The Orchard and production company A&E IndieFilms covering North American distribution rights for the film.
Life, Animated is about the power of movies, which is why we could have no better partner to bring our film to the world than The Orchard, who are so passionate about this film
said Roger Ross Williams.
We are so excited for audiences to meet and connect with Owen Suskind and the Suskind family. The remarkable screenings at Sundance were just the start; we anticipate an extraordinary journey ahead with the Suskinds, A&E IndieFilms and The Orchard, who are committed to bringing this film to the widest possible audience
said producer Julie Goldman.
In the wake of the book’s success the Suskind family launched the Autism Affinities Project, which showcases the ‘affinities’ of others with autism in the belief that, ‘there is massive therapeutic and social potential for acknowledging affinities as the complex and often beneficial phenomena they are.’
The family is also working with Dr Dan Griffin, the psychologist involved in Owen’s affinity therapy, to develop ‘a more fleshed-out version’ of the approach.