“Lost Contact”: Autistics as Aliens?

I encountered Jaina Kalifa’s film “Happy Android” as a short at Toronto Hot Docs Festival in 2019 and it was a simple uplifting story about a mentally distraught man creating a robot costume and trundling about making so many people, particularly children, happy. How could this be? A near “social reject” making people who might have labelled him a misfit so joyful!

I heard from Kalifa yesterday who said he had a new short documentary film “Lost Contact” which is having its Australian premiere at the St. Kilda Film Festival in Australia from 21 May-29 May. The festival films are geoblocked to Australia but knowing the festival circuit somehow I am sure it will be coming to Canada and many other countries.

The film is about autistic Aldo O’Donadel who due to his autism feels like he has come from another planet. After feeling isolated due to autism he seeks connection with others to give his life meaning. He could neither speak an Italian or English complete sentence until his thirties.

Aldo is autistic but complicated and full of meaningful insights that his autism may be responsible for. Often those we might considered mentally unbalanced or ourselves when mentally unbalanced can offer a creativity “normalacy” deprives us of. Like his sentence “My life journey is to find my voice.” Isn’t that what we are looking for or are we simply too busy existing we can’t grasp the fundamental truth of the statement. Funny, as a lawyer for 33 years I would not have understood this but as a novelist and writer I live this statement daily. Also Aldo has another brilliant statement that he needs someone to hear him so he can find his way to safety. Again I live this daily. Am I autistic? Or does Aldo’s autism give me an insight above and beyond what “normal people” have the patience, time or ability to think about?

While “Happy Android” was an uplifting documentary “Lost Contact” is more insightful than it is uplifting. Is autism simply being an extreme position on the “normalcy spectrum”? Although a more complex film than “Happy Android” puppeteering” keeps the documentary from being overly serious. Whereas “Happy Android” leaves you cheer and joy “Lost Contact” may have you left in serious thought quite a task for a 12-minute documentary.

Ingenious use of puppetry and an exhaustive look into autism. I feel sorry for audiences that have not watched the film at least three times. There is more than 12 minutes of meat in this one.

In addition to Kalifa , Amelia Paxman is responsible for this nifty little “short”. No, they have gone beyond “nifty” but brilliance enshrouded in a degree of light heatedness.

Stay tuned readers for this documentary to come your way.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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