Greater confidence, the ability to make friends and the sound of laughter are among the changes observed by the mother of two children with autism who appear in a new documentary set to World Premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival this month.
As One chronicles the journey of ten UAE based children as they embark on The Autism Project, an initiative started by Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to raise awareness of autism in the United Arab Emirates.
Image Nation’s first feature length documentary follows the children and their families as they progress through workshops as part of a music and theatre program for children with autism. It captures their struggles and triumphs along the way and concludes with a delightful musical performance staged by the children for their friends and families.
Suha Abu Laila, mother of Fathi and Omar, who are both on the autism spectrum, said: “Being part of this project has been an eye opening experience for all of us and the change we have seen in the boys is wonderful.”
“Where previously both Fathi and Omar had found it difficult to interact with others, the film has enabled them to make friends with children just like them, and Fathi, who has always played alone, has become a real team player, mentoring the younger children involved in the project and showing empathy – something we hadn’t seen before.”
The locally produced film project was also a chance to meet other parents of children with autism, and share their challenges and experiences.
“We now feel like we’re not alone, which makes all the difference,” said Suha. “We are all so excited to attend the premiere – Omar doesn’t speak, but we notice a visible change in him when we show him videos of the project. He’s watched it at least 100 times, so we can’t wait to see his reaction when the children are reunited for the premiere.”
The children who appear in As One come from different backgrounds and nationalities including Ethiopia, Palestine, England, Philippines, America, Uganda, India and the Emirates and reflect the diverse and international community that resides in the UAE. Aged between four and seventeen, the children are at various levels on the autism spectrum, which gives the film a unique, realistic view on the condition.
As One’s producer Hana Makki said: “It has been a real privilege working with such a wonderful group of children and their families. Watching the project evolve has been an education for me personally in terms of the struggles that families dealing with autism have to face and I hope that the film goes some way to help raise awareness of how talented and special these children are. We are so looking forward to reuniting them on the red carpet at the premiere later this month and can’t wait to see how they respond to the film.”
Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, added: “Image Nation is immensely proud of our first documentary,As One. It is our hope that the film helps shed light on the condition of Autism while celebrating this group of talented and gifted young people.”
As One will premiere at the Emirates Palace on the 25th October 2014 at 11am.
To buy tickets, visit:http://www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae/en/programme-events/films-2014/film-details?ID=15040
Information about the Autism Project and the As Onedocumentary can be found at www.asoneautism.ae
Contribute your voice to the initiative on Facebook, As One: The Autism Project and Twitter @AsOneAutism.