Since September, Cuarón made the news not only by signing a controversial petition by the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques’ (SACD) protesting the extradition of Roman Polanski from Switzerland for an outstanding warrant dating back to his 1977 rape conviction but also for his participation in Autism Speaks‘ “I am Autism” campaign (details below the cut).
More recently, HR reported that the director was in early stage talks to direct the remake of Jérôme Salle’s The Tourist (original title: Anthony Zimmer) , replacing Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), originally attached to the project. Variety reports that the production is to finally begin in February after a number of cast and crew changes since 2005. However, as recently as last week, von Donnersmarck asserted that he was still attached to the project. “In the trades, everything they say…I think you can discount a lot of it. It’s just a way of talking about the business, and sometimes things get out about heated points of discussion. We’ll see how it plays out with that one.”
In October, the finalists for the AXN Film Festival were announced. Jury members – including Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Carlos Cuarón, among others – selected ten short films from across South America which will air on AXN from 15th November to to 6th December in Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, and Venezuela. The winner will be announced Sunday, 13th December. Read more. The Sunday Times carried an interview with Carlos and Alfonso Cuarón by Beverley D’Silva ahead of of the DVD release of Rudo y Cursi in the UK mid-November. The brothers discussed their relationship growing up and making films, “Writing [Y tu mamá también], we were laughing like crazy and getting very excited. We learnt that the only way to make things happen is to take control of your material from the get-go. And it all happened from there.”
Apologies for the great delay!
22nd September, international autism research and advocacy organisation Autism Speaks launched its second annual world conference and the “Decade for Autism”p campaign urging governments to better fund autism research and social services for families affected by autism. Screened at the conference was a short-film commissioned especially for the initiative called “I am Autism,” by Alfonso Cuarón and songwriter Billy Mann, who are both parents of children diagnosed with autism. The organisation invited individuals with autism and their family to submit footage which was put together with a reading of a poem by Mann, “to show the global face of autism.”
The video, available on YouTube, immediately drew criticism from autistic self-advocates across the web. Liz Ditz provides a long list of blog posts and articles responding to the video in the days immediately after its release while The New Republic provides coverage of Autism Speaks’ public relations disaster as well as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s official response (press release and blog excerpts) to “I am Autism.”
“This is the latest in a series of unethical fundraising strategies adopted by Autism Speaks,” said Ari Ne’eman, an adult on the autism spectrum and President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). “This type of fear mongering hurts Autistic people, by raising fear and not contributing in the slightest to accurate understanding of the needs of Autistic adults and children.”
In addition to the charge of fear mongering and misrepresentation of autism and autistic people, one of the major criticisms of the Autism Speaks campaign targets the exploitative nature of the video campaign, which featured primarily minors unable to personally consent to the use of their image. Furthermore, rather than providing a platform for autistic persons to discuss their experiences as the name of the campaign might suggest (it is perhaps here that I find this (re)presentation so problematic, personally), the narration instead personifies and demonises autism, focusing on the burden it creates for parents of children with autism. Thomas C. Weiss of Disabled World takes a closer look at the campaign activities of Autism Speaks, while board members from the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) offer their criticisms (requires Facebook sign-in) of the organisation’s past campaigns.
In the week after the video’s release, Autism Speaks responded to the criticism, explaining: “It is an intensely personal expression by these two fathers and their hope is that the piece inspires other voices and artists in the autism community. No one perspective can ever be the definitive voice of autism.” The group additionally offered to remove the video “I am Autism,” but it is still available online. There has been no response from either Mann or Cuarón.
Most recently, Claudia Wallis of Time covered some of the controversy generated by the video, including a statement from Autism Speaks’ vice-president Peter Bell, who acknowledged, “We realized it did hurt a certain segment of the population, which is why we removed the video link from our website,” also admitting the lack of autistic representation on its advisory boards. Michael Novinson of Bryn Mawr and Harverford Colleges’ Bi-College News also offered an opinion on the controversy, “Giving autistic people a more prominent platform in their own movement may not result in medical breakthroughs, but it should help bridge cultural divides. At the very least, they can caution well-intentioned yet naïve filmmakers against portraying autism subjects as lifeless zombies powerless in their own struggle.”