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Autism: The Musical (2008)

Elaine Hall , Rosanne Katon , Tricia Regan  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Elaine Hall, Rosanne Katon, Kristen Stills, Stephen Stills
  • Directors: Tricia Regan
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012XIGZ0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,716 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Autism: The Musical" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Companion guide
  • Deleted scenes
  • About Autism Speaks
  • Filmmaker biography

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

AUTISM: THE MUSICAL follows the extraordinary and innovative acting coach Elaine Hall, five autistic children, and their parents as they improbably, heroically mount a full-length original stage production. Through trial and error, tears and laughter, these incredible families learn to communicate their feelings in song and performance, finding solace and joy in the act of creating.

A veritable feast of astounding breakthroughs and heartbreaking hardship, this spellbinding film offers a full-throated celebration of kids living with this increasingly prevalent disorder. Director Tricia Regan vividly captures the individual personalities and problems of each child, from precocious Henry who talks a mile-a-minute about dinosaurs to Neal, a sensitive and articulate boy who nonetheless struggles to speak at all. The parents, too, are fascinating studies in unconditional love, especially Elaine, the mastermind behind the musical and mother of Neal.

A consciousness-raising and empathetic portrait of children and their families living with autism, AUTISM: THE MUSICAL celebrates the spark of humanity in each of us. Called 'Moving, dramatic, therapeutic and unburdened by reliance on talking heads'; (Variety), this film will change the way you look at autism

It's hard to imagine an unlikelier feel-good documentary than the uplifting Autism: The Musical. Directed for HBO by Tricia Regan, but truly the brainchild of the vision--and sheer will--of Elaine Hall, the film is both unflinching in its portrayal of autism, and triumphant in the ways it shows connections among the film's subjects. For those dealing with autism--and as the diagnosis grows more common, that would be nearly everyone--this film is enlightening, engaging, and reaffirming.The film chronicles the first theater arts endeavor of the L.A.-based Miracle Project, the creation of Hall ("Coach E"), a playwright and the single mother of Neal, a nearly speechless autistic boy. Through networking, Hall has met a group of parents of children with an enormous range of autistic symptoms and decides to try a workshop in which the children will, in a matter of months, be cohesive enough to perform in a stage production. The film follows Hall from the initial (and skeptical) meetings of the parents, and introduces the several children followed throughout the rehearsal period. Part of the disarming strength of the film is that it changes its perspective on showing the children's personalities. Viewers first meet 14-year-old Lexi when she's singing a musically complex Joni Mitchell song, in a clear, absolutely lovely soprano, in what appears to be a regular singing lesson. Only later do we learn that Lexi, diagnosed with autism as a toddler, has a hard time originating her own speech--though hearing her sing, the viewer would never have guessed. (Her parents still struggle with Lexi's condition, with her mother alternating between frustration and despair, and her father calmly saying, "It's not up to us to judge the quality of her life.") Other kids with behavioral issues or communication challenges are among the cast members, and the early scenes show a barely-controlled chaos that clearly mirrors the daily lives of the parents. The toll of dealing with their children is shown, as marriages break up and friendships are strained. Yet love blossoms in the most unlikely places, as Hall shows midway through the film. By the triumphant finale, the viewer is as invested in the children's lives as the parents, and the performances, while perhaps not what one would have expected at the beginning, present nothing short of a true "Bravo!" moment. As the kids sing, "Take a chance--get to know the real me." --A.T. Hurley

Special message from Tricia Regan:

"I work with dangerous materials. When handled correctly, a camera records the truth. When infused with a powerful belief, the results of months of editing can yield a film that slices through the layers of distraction and strikes you right at your very core.

It took forever to find a title for this movie. Autism: The Musical is not an “issue” film.  Watching this film, you are not going to learn all about the causes and treatments for autism. No experts are going to show up and describe to you in detail all of the various manifestations of autism. You are simply going to experience autism as the characters do: as their primary obstacle in life, and their primary obstacle in putting on an original musical.

By characters, I mean people. This movie is about people who are very real, and very raw, but also very funny and very entertaining. Autism can be devastating, let’s make no bones about that, but it is also a fact of life. And this particular group of people, parents and children alike, have taken on this challenge with courage, hard work, hope, sometimes denial and sometimes acceptance, but most importantly, they have not lost their sense of humor about it all. 

So I wanted a title that wasn’t sacrosanct, that could let you know that it’s as okay to laugh and have a good time as it is to cry. Because my goal from the start has been to allow you to see these kids as whole people. And to give you firsthand experience of the dizzying, fascinating, sometimes terrifying and usually mystifying array of autism’s manifestations.

I believe in the inherent value of every living being, and their inalienable right to be respected for everything that they are. There is an entire generation of kids whose neurological systems have been altered by autism. Their challenges make it difficult for them to participate in the culture we have created. Our challenge, as a community, is to find room in our hearts, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, and in our workplaces for these unique individuals. This film, which many have called a love story, brings home exactly why we should. So gather up a few hankies, and be prepared to laugh – but I must give you fair warning – this film will change the way you think, and not just about autism."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very special film. April 2, 2008
"Autism: the Musical" wasn't necessarily something groundbreakingly new, nor was it the most complete view of autism (which can be a great deal worse than what you see in the film), but it was a truly inspired and beautiful vision of hope and understanding. The children in the film are wonderful and the adults cover the whole range of what people can be. If this doesn't deeply touch and affect you, then there is something quite wrong. It's a valuable and important film for everyone to see and I applaud its production.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. This is wicked good. May 23, 2008
I am the mother of an an almost 5 year old autistic boy, and I had been itching to see Autism: The Musical. Now that I have, I am so touched and amazed by what went into that film. I liked the fact that she did not hide the difficulties these children can have, but she still showed that they are so much more than just that (a fact that can easily be forgotten when the child has a meltdown at the grocery store). I also liked that the director unflinchingly showed just how angry and frustrated that we parents can become, and that that anger and frustration has its roots in the fact that we are fiercely protective of ours and we fear what happens if we are not here. At the same time, those kids were amazing and fantastic and she showed it. Adam is a little ladies man in the making, Lexi has a lovely singing voice, Henry and Wyatt are just absolute stars, and maybe the reason Neal does not talk is simply because the rest of us don't speak angel yet. Everyone should watch this.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME DOCUMENTARY April 2, 2008
As the dad of a very special 10 year Autistic son, I want to say BRAVO to the people who put this work together, it does a great job of showing the reality of the "wide spectrum" of Autism. I am ordering several copies of this DVD to share with friends and family.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could easily be a reality series. September 12, 2009
My daughter is almost 5 and was diagnosed with autism shortly before turning 3. Unless you have a child or sibling with autism, you have no idea what day to day living is like. This movie touches on it and reveals some of the struggles families face as well as the heartwarming side of this puzzling disorder. My husband and I watched it together first, then I lent it to our daughter's caregiver, her Montessori teacher and currently my mother has it. I plan to pass this movie along to anyone who works with my daughter and family so they can have a better understanding of what life is like with a loved one who has autism.

I say the premise of Autism: The Musical could easily become a mini-series or reality series because not every issue facing families of children with autism could be covered in this 90 minute documentary. Seemingly simple everyday tasks like going to the grocery store, the shoe store, family photo sessions at JCPenney, dining out, playdates, sibling issues, etc. could be featured to give viewers an even better understanding of the struggles families face.

Overall, if you know someone who has a child with autism or work with special needs children, it is worth your while to watch Autism: The Musical.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful May 29, 2008
I just saw this today and was very moved by. As someone with Asperger's Syndrome/High-functioning autism it was nice to see my fellow aspies and auties portrayed in such a loving light. I highly recommend this to everyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best film I have seen about autism September 24, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
It has been some months since I first saw this film, and I found it to be entertaining and educational, but most of all extremely moving. It shows why autism is considered a spectrum disorder, and how both people with autism and their families cope in the many ways humans do. There is nothing sentimental about the film, and yet is is very humanistic, in the best sense of the word. Kudos to the director and all those involved. Anybody who has someone affected by autism will be moved, and the general public would do itself a favor by watching this inspiring documentary.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autism the Musical September 15, 2008
By Jane N.
First off: I absolutely ADORE this movie! Every time it comes on TV I just HAVE to watch it.
Adam is an autistic savant who is an amazing cellist, and loves to chase girls on the playground. Henry has AS and is the son of Stephen Stills, and is a walking encyclopedia on reptiles and dinosaurs. Neal is non-verbal and was adopted from Russia and diagnosed autistic soon after adoption. His mom, Elaine, runs the program. Wyatt has high-functioning autism, and is very smart and witty. Lexi is the only girl that is focused on, and she doesn't quite have a severe form.
I love how the movie turned out at the end and I would recommend it to anybody.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and balanced depiction of autism September 7, 2008
I have a 5 year old who has Autism and I thought this movie was right on! What I liked most was that it illustrated the full spectrum of autism. It told stories of quirky kids with aspergers and high-functioning autism as well as kids who are non-verbal with severe communication and social impairments. The best part is that the viewer gets to see all of these kids together as they are led by a wonderful mom who ambitiousy directs them in the production of a play. Very inspiring!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good movie. Fast delivery
Published 1 month ago by Gerard O.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Every one should watch this video. Gives good insight of autism.
Published 2 months ago by Judy
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 2 months ago by BJ Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed seeing all the children getting more comfortable and being ...
Enjoyed seeing all the children getting more comfortable and being able to better socialize with each other. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Erela
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome inspirational movie
Kudos to Elaine Hall. She is an inspiration to all. Her hard work has been worth all of it. It shows in the movie!
Published 5 months ago by jadie523
5.0 out of 5 stars I liked it
My autistic grandson and siblings watched it with me. It was informative and entertaining. It's always good to know that you're not the only one. Read more
Published 6 months ago by TO
5.0 out of 5 stars Five star
I would like to say that this had my wife and I really like this movie. We let my mom watch it and she loved it that she is going to buy the movie for her self.
Published 6 months ago by James Ebel
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie
I work with extreme disability children. Many of them Autistic. I find Autism very intriguing. This movie does a good job showing the inner struggle of emotion that occurs inside... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Megan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
Really interesting and fun documentary. I highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in the autism spectrum or anything related.
Published 7 months ago by Evan Kasemeotes
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie
It certainly helped me to understand autism.
I found the film very powerful with a creative way to tap into the gifts of those on the autism spectrum
Published 7 months ago by Evelyn A. Lamoureux
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