Roger Ross Williams’s Life, Animated is one of the year’s most heartwarming and uplifting documentaries. Based on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Ron Suskind’s 2014 memoir Life, Animated: A Story Of Sidekicks, Heroes And Autism, Williams’s documentary recounts the Suskind family’s 20-year journey to connect with their youngest son, Owen. Diagnosed with regressive autism at the age of three, Owen lost the ability to speak, and developed an obsession with Disney’s animated movies. Latching onto their son’s new-found interest, the family began to converse in Disney dialogue, which eventually helped Owen regain his speech. Over the subsequent years, the Suskinds and their son’s therapist used the famed studio’s output to help Owen connect with the world around him. Enlightening and educational, Life, Animated (winner of the Directing Award at this year’s Sundance) is an inspiring story of triumph over adversity, and a moving celebration of family.
Director: Nate Parker.
Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King. USA 2016. 120 mins.
Giving a film about an 1831 slave uprising in Virginia, USA, the same title as D. W. Griffith’s Ku Klux Klan-championing silent epic from 1915 was a bold and wonderfully pointed decision on the part of first-time African-American director Nate Parker. In an interview, Parker stated that he had reclaimed the title and “repurposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America”.
Parker takes the central role, and also co-wrote and co-produced this tale based on the life of Nat Turner. An enslaved African American, Turner led a violent rebellion that resulted in the deaths of up to 65 white men, women and children. Timely and confrontational, Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival.