HBO film looks at autism through mother's eyes

Thu Apr 1, 2010 7:40pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A documentary narrated by actress Kate Winslet debuts on U.S. television Friday aiming to take audiences beyond narrow depictions of autism in films like "Rain Man" and expose them more broadly to the disability.

The film, "A Mother's Courage: Talking Back To Autism," is based upon an Icelandic woman's journey as she meets scientists and autism experts in the United States in an effort to improve the life of her 10 year-old son.

"Mother's Courage" premieres on cable TV's HBO on World Autism Awareness Day, and shows Margret Dagmar Ericsdottir struggling to find treatments for her autistic son, Keli.

Along with Winslet, Icelandic musicians Bjork and Sigur Ros add their voices and music to the movie, and Iceland's first lady Dorrit Moussaieff backed the project when filming began four years ago. While celebrities bring name value to "Mother's Courage," its makers say their aim is to educate and change narrow perceptions of autism.

In 1988 Oscar-winning film "Rain Man," for instance, Dustin Hoffman played an autistic man and mathematical genius who is taken on a road trip by his brother (played by Tom Cruise) and along the way counts cards at casinos to win some money.

"Autism is more varied than reflected in that movie" said Ericsdottir, noting it was what many people associated with the disability even 22 years after it played in theaters.

Autism is a general term for a group of developmental brain disorders and symptoms, such as problems with social interaction and communication, and it can range from mild to severe. Its cause is unknown and there is no known cure.

One in 110 U.S. children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder every year, with boys factoring much higher, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Continued...