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directed by Tim Webb
UK 1992


This multi-award-winning film, released for the first time on DVD, is a short glimpse into the world of autism, with words, drawings, music and animation all contributed by autistic people.

Director Tim Webb's experience as an animator led him to realise that there was a quality in some autistic children's drawings that would lend itself to animation. In 1991 Channel 4 Television commissioned him to explore the possibility of making a short film for their 'Disabling World' season to give a general audience a small window into the condition of autism.

In the UK no film had ever been made about autism which included contributions from autistic people themselves. Animation appeared to offer a useful technique to combine work from a number of autistic contributors, and to engage an ordinary viewer with the experiences being recounted and portrayed within a film.

Tim Webb researched the project for a year, reading academic studies, collecting authentic work by people with autism, talking to workers professionally involved with the condition, and meeting autistic people and their families. A is for Autism was then made as an 'animated documentary' based upon contributions and collaborations with autistic people which gave them, quite literally, a voice of their own.

Every design in the film originates from a drawing by a person with autism. The narration is spoken by some of the small proportion of autistic people who are able to recount their thoughts and feelings. They agreed to be interviewed and recorded, knowing that their personal thoughts would be incorporated into the soundtrack of the film. The piano and flute music on the soundtrack was specially recorded by two autistic performers; the pianist also composed some of the piano music.

Winner of Special Prize of the UNESCO International Fund for the Promotion of Culture, The Way We Live: Munich International Short Film Festival 1995

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 11:19

4:3 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.85 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 4:3

Edition Details:
• Biographies of the director and producer
• Picture gallery

DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2004
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Chapters 1



Tim Webb's short documentary "A is for Autism" blends live action and animation to give us a glimpse into the world of the autistic. The documentary, which was originally made for Britain's channel four, features short confessionals by those living with autism, both young and old, and uses their drawings to create animation of the world from their unique perspectives. While most of the participants in the short are children, it does also feature the now seemingly ubiquitous Temple Grandin. The short, while far from your conventional documentary, does make for fascinating viewing and it's this unique approach that separates it from other talking head documentaries. By going this route and using the participant's own drawings, Webb provides us with an insight into the world of autism (if perhaps a small one at that) that couldn't have come otherwise.

The live action sequences in the short look very much like work made for early 90s television. That's not to say that the material is bad in any way, but certainly has a dated look to it that helps to identify it in its place and time. The animation sequences look quite nice and were expertly done. Both parts of the documentary look acceptable and have no signs of damage, dirt, or artifacts.

The sound on the release is acceptable as well. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix presents the material clearly and there are no discernible signs of manipulation or unwanted background noise in the form of hisses, pops, etc. The subtitles here are easily read and don't obstruct the image.

The only extras on the release are a pictures gallery of the images used in the animation, short biographies for the filmmakers, and a short essay on the disc sleeve. I found all of the material here of interest, but the only one that I might ever want to revisit is the picture gallery.

This release certainly made for an interesting experience and the animation used in the short is very enjoyable to watch. Those who might be curious about the release are encouraged to take the plunge, as its currently going for less than five pounds on Amazon's British site.

 - Brian Montgomery


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