UAE autism documentary to premiere at Abu Dhabi Film Festival
A unique programme using theatre and music to reach out to UAE children on the autism spectrum takes centre stage in a brand new documentary to premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.
As One tells the story of a group of youngsters taking part in The Autism Project, an initiative founded by Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to raise awareness of autism in the UAE.
It focuses on the families and lives of 10 children between the ages of 4 and 17 taking part in The Autism Project, documenting how they progress through theatre and music workshops, culminating in a heart-warming musical performance staged by the children for friends and families.
Among those on stage are Fathi and Omar, who are both on the autism spectrum. Mother Suha Abu Laila 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.”
The release marks the first feature-length documentary to come from Image Nation, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, publisher of The National.
The children featured in As One are at various levels of the autism spectrum, and come from a diverse range of backgrounds and nationalities, including Ethiopia, Palestine, the United Kingdom, USA, Philippines, Uganda, India and the UAE.
The project has also offered the chance for parents of children on the autism spectrum to come together, with many of those featured in the film looking forward to attending the premiere, which takes place at Emirates Palace on October 25 at 11am.
“We now feel like we’re not alone, which makes all the difference,” added 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.”
Hana Makki, the producer of As One, said: “It has been a real privilege working with such a wonderful group of children and their families.
“We are so looking forward to reuniting them on the red carpet at the premiere, and I can’t wait to see how they respond to the film.”
Michael Garin, the chief executive 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.”
• To buy tickets to the premiere, visit www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae
Find out more about The Autism Project and As One at www.asoneautism.ae, on the Facebook group As One: The Autism Project, or via Twitter at @AsOneAutism
Updated: October 9, 2014 04:00 AM