Spanish illustrator tackles daughter's autism with humor

Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:10pm EDT
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By Elisabeth O'Leary

MADRID (Reuters) - Award-winning Spanish illustrator Miguel Gallardo has overcome the limitations imposed by his daughter's autism by doing what he does best -- drawing.

Gallardo's sketches over 12 years led to a beautifully etched comic book, "Maria and I" (Maria y Yo), explaining everyday life with his daughter and its challenges.

That book has now become a documentary film of the same name, which opens in Spain this week.

"You could say I had a debt to pay (to my past) or something like that. The drawings came from a diary I started when Maria was born ... but really it took me 13 years to find the right voice to tell a difficult story," he told Reuters.

Directed by Felix Fernandez de Castro, the film tracks the relationship between Maria, Miguel and his ex-wife May, and how they have learned to cope with Maria's disability.

The drawings are blended seamlessly into the film providing it with ironic winks and with no hint of sentimentality. Maria, a 14-year old with an infectious grin and a love of food, is a charming and surprising protagonist.

Before the book, Gallardo was more famous in Spain as creator of a punk comic book madhouse escapee called Makoki.

But the project has helped lay to rest some of his darker feelings -- anger, guilt and frustration -- by airing them.   Continued...

<p>Maria, the daughter of Spanish illustrator Miguel Gallardo is seen in this video grab from a documentary film made available on July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Bausan Films and Pelis Chulas/Handout</p>