Fortnightly podcast episodes exploring the representation, presence and expression of autism in popular and underground cinema and TV. Join hosts Janet, Georgia, Alex, John-James, Lillian, Ethan and David as they travel far beyond Rain Man to explore autism across a range of films from drama to documentary via sci-fi and comedy. We ask: where can we trace autistic influence on film as an art form and a cultural product? What are the ethics of depicting autistic and neurodivergent characters in certain ways? And might we consider the cinematic camera as an autistic mode of expression?
The Podcast is currently on a short hiatus while we get some new episodes recorded. We hope to be back in action in Summer 2022.
In the meantime we'd love to hear from our listeners! Do get in touch to give us your thoughts on our podcast, especially if there's a film we haven't covered yet that you think would be interesting to explore. We're also on the look out for autistic people who work in the industry for our special interview episodes. If that's you, or if you know anyone, please use our contact form to get in touch.
Back in September 2021 we took over the Barbican's 'Nothing Concrete' podcast for a special episode. We reflected on the first eight episodes of our own podcast and discussed some of the surprises and common themes we've been encountering along the way. Listen below or stream on Spotify:
John-James Laidlow is a queer, disabled video artist from Brighton, UK.
A graduate of the University of Sussex’s MA in Digital Documentary programme he has an interest in video essays, hybrid documentary forms and incorporating AR/3D animation elements into his work. He was late diagnosed as autistic at age 29.
John-James started his creative output with film photography and zines. This work has been shown in group shows in London, Copenhagen and Berlin. During his MA he moved to focus more on filmmaking. His video essay The Neurotypical Gaze which looks at autistic representation in media screened at Autscape and Autminds (both autistic-led conferences) as well as being presented in a seminar at Oxford University.
Janet Harbord is leading Autism Through Cinema’s archive work as part of the first stage of the research; collaborating with the project team to scope, select and interpret medical archive film relevant to the project. Janet is interested in the ways film creates relationships between bodies, feelings and environments, and explores this in her writing.
In Film Cultures (2002), she examines how film from its inception enacted shock on its viewers through architecture and environment. In The Evolution of Film (2007) Janet asserts the historical decline of cinema as leading to new concerns about attention and distraction in public and private space. This led to the collaborative project with Chris Berry and Rachel Moore Public Space, Media Space (2013). In Ex-centric Cinema: Giorgio Agamben and Film Archaeology (2016), Janet pursued cinema’s part in the becoming-human as an event never accomplished but always underway, a production that also gives definition to what is considered the inhuman.
She is a member of the Centre for Film and Ethics at Queen Mary and is currently Chair of the Department of Film Studies.
Ethan Lyon is a graduate of Queen Mary University of London and the University of Southampton, currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Southampton.
A recipient of the Presidential Scholarship, his thesis, entitled ‘Distorted Screams, Double Lives: Autism and the Gothic Horror film 1931-1967’ will analyse how Gothic horror cinema can help elucidate the complexities of the autistic experience
Lillian Crawford is a film journalist and podcaster whose academic work has applied gender theory to the films of Ealing Studios and Powell and Pressburger. In 2018 she interned at Little White Lies which has led to regular reviews, including coverage of the San Sebastián Film Festival. She has also written several pieces on gender construction and trans* representation in cinema which she is always keen to explore. She has appeared on Truth & Movies several times and recent interviews include Hans Zimmer and Céline Sciamma.
From 2017-2019 Lillian edited the film section of Cambridge’s paper, Varsity interviewing celebrities from Josh O’Connor to Bryan Cranston and covering three iterations of the Cambridge Film Festival. She has written movie and TV news articles for Flicks UK and Screen Rant, and has had features published by Girls on Tops, Sight & Sound, and MUBI Notebook.
Whilst reading history at Trinity College, Cambridge Lillian reached the semi-final of BBC’s University Challenge and became president of the Cambridge University Quiz Society. She also spent a year as the college’s LGBT+ Officer and introduced measures to accommodate self-expression. In 2020 she graduated with an MPhil in Film and Screen Studies, and in 2021 appeared on Brain of Britain and Mastermind. She now works full-time on University Challenge as a researcher, writing picture and music questions.
David Hartley is a recent graduate of the Creative Writing PhD programme at The University of Manchester where his research focused on the representation and expression of autism and neuroqueerness within works of science fiction and fantasy. His screen-based thesis considered the relationship of estrangement and Otherness with autism through the film Blade Runner (1982) and the TV sitcom Community (2009-2016) and is available to read on his Academia page.
In 2020, he co-founded the Narratives of Neurodiversity Network, and joined the Autism Through Cinema team as a regular contributor to the podcast.
David is also a successful short fiction writer and his works have appeared in various literary magazines including Ambit, Black Static, The Ghastling and Structo. His short story collection Incorcisms will be released with Arachne Press in May 2021, with another eco-themed collection called Fauna following in September 2021 with Fly on the Wall Press.
Alex Widdowson is a Wellcome Trust funded PhD student in the Department of Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London. His practice-based research attempts to deepen knowledge about autism through animated documentary production.
Alex is interested in developing ethical strategies to represent individuals with autism through collaborative film practice and reflexive mechanisms that encourage audience scrutiny.
Alex has been using animation in a documentary context since 2011, focusing on the medium's potential to evoke subjective experiences of disability, neurodiversity and psychology. He directed Music & Clowns (2018), a multi award-winning short film that addresses Down syndrome. An earlier film, Critical Living (2017), explores the legacy of anti-psychiatry in contemporary therapeutic communities, developed while artist in residence at the Philadelphia Association. Alex partnered with Vice UK to release Escapology: The Art of Addiction (2017) which lead to over half a million online views. He has delivered papers at two of the Society for Animation Studies annual conferences. In 2018 he published the article, ‘Animating Documentary Modes’ in The International Journal of Film and Media Arts (Vol 3, No 1). He is an alumnus of the Royal College of Art’s MA in Animation and the AniDox:Lab at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. For more information on Alex’s practice-based research, please visit: www.DocumentaryAnimationDiscourse.com.
Georgia Bradburn is an undergraduate film student at Queen Mary University of London. Her blog 'The Autistic Film Critic' seeks to expand traditional readings of film to incorporate a neurodiverse perspective. She has written about several films including Mulholland Drive (2001), Koyaanisqatsi (1982), Steve Jobs (2015) and The Host (2006).
Georgia’s own film practice explores how her experience of autism can be transferred to a visual medium. An early fascination with the films of David Lynch have encouraged her interest in experimental film, surrealism and horror, leading to the development of several short films which can be found on her blog. She is currently working on a semi-autobiographical installation film drawing on themes of metamorphosis, suburbia and adolescence.
Georgia is embarking on her year abroad in 2021-2022 to study at the University of Texas at Austin, where she will be developing her skills in film practice and digital media production.