In a world where kids with certain behavioural and mental issues are mostly ignored within the folds of ‘normal’ society, there is a dire need to show them as regular children. Renowned filmmaker Shreedhar B.S’s documentary, In Our World, attempts to highlight Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through the lives of three children. Stepping ahead of the clinical analysis, the film without any voice-over, follows these children’s daily activities with interviews of their parents and therapists bringing out a nuanced understanding of autism. The documentary was screened at the recently concluded 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI). We caught up with the director to learn more about the film, and the research that went into the making. Excerpts from the interview:
Autism is still a taboo in society and not many would like to address it. What made you choose ASD as a subject for the documentary?
My son’s piano teacher also teaches special children. My conversations with him piqued my interest in the connect between music and ASD. Soon music became secondary once I got to know more about their lives, and felt the need to bring their experiences to the forefront to tell the world that they are one among us.
Through this film I tried to bust the common myths and misconceptions to bring about awareness in an earnest bid to assimilate them in mainstream society. To eradicate the stigma and show their lives in all its honesty in order to create one world where no one is discriminated for their flaws, but loved for their qualities.
What kind of research went into the making?
I have done about five months of research. I didn’t want a clinical approach, so avoided medical jargon. Rather, I spoke to their parents, therapists and special educators to learn more about ASD from personal experiences and not textbook information. One of the key features of this research was interviews with parents.
Was it difficult to convince parents to open up?
Yes, they were reluctant to talk about their children; to allow someone to document their lives because no one wants to talk about it or let the world know because of societal stigma. So getting them to open up about their lives, winning their confidence to document their experiences was a challenge. But, finally, they spoke at length.
Films on such subjects unfortunately don’t get a chance to be a part of mainstream cinema? Your views?
I know there is an audience for such films. And, I know films on dyslexia and autism, which became popular, and they were well made.
What are the challenges that independent filmmakers face today?
Independent cinema is here to stay especially with the digital platforms opening up. Challenges are mostly about finances.