HBO documentary puts focus on awareness

Cris Italia

My first impression of HBO’s “A Mother’s Courage: Talking back to autism”: it wasn’t the whole story. This was obviously one segment of producer Margret Dagmar Ericsdottir’s life. A native of Iceland, Margaret decided to document her visit to the United States and her search for answers concerning her son Keli’s diagnosis of autism.

Over 400 hours of footage was shot for “A Mother’s Courage,” two hours of which will premiere on April 2, at 6:00 p.m. est. It was clear from the very beginning that Margaret was in search of any answers but this documentary chooses to focus on the one that seemed to work best for her son and in the process she received an education on all things autism.

“A Mother’s Courage” begins where all moms should begin: with Temple Grandin. Of course so many books and documentaries have been down this road before, but when it comes to insight on autism, no one does it quite like Temple. Among the many places and people Margaret visits is the M.I.N.D. Institute at UC Davis and Cure Autism Now founders John Shestack and Portia Iverson. She eventually finds Soma Mukhopadhyay and her HALO program in Austin, Texas. After watching her work with several children, Margaret chooses to bring her son to Texas to be treated.

My initial reaction on whether this documentary summed up Margaret’s experience with autism was correct. “This wasn’t completely the movie we wanted,” Margaret told me after last night’s New York premiere. “We had two hours to show people what autism was and I believe we did that. I believe we accomplished our goal of awareness.”

She’s 100 percent correct. Any mainstream viewer will come away with a better knowledge of autism. For that purpose alone, this is an excellent film. However, for the readers of this blog and the families that have been through the same rigors Margaret has in her life, there will be a level of disappointment. There was little to no talk of biomedical interventions, which a large percentage of the autism community believes in. There was also very little talk of environmental causes. Ironically, Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer, Dr. Geraldine Dawson spoke about different levels of environmental factors.

So when you’re watching on April 2nd, score one for the awareness effort and understand that two hours of air time on a network like HBO is a good thing. Autism is once again front and center and HBO has shown a commitment to the cause. This isn’t their first foray into autism and all indications are it won’t be their last.

Stay tuned for more on “A Mother’s Courage” both on the site and in the magazine, including how Rosie O’Donnell brought this movie to life and Kate Winslet’s steady narration.

Courtesy Spectrum Publications

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