Alex Widdowson, PhD Candidate
Drawing on Autism is an investigation into the ethics of creating animated documentaries. As a non-autistic filmmaker, representing an autistic participant, I needed to be mindful of the well-rehearsed and problematic tropes about autism. These tropes seem to say more about the desires and needs of neurotypical audiences than they do about their autistic subjects. Moreover, animation presents a distinct set of ethical dilemmas.
Without the mechanical indifference of a camera, the act of observation is substituted for representation. A mode of representation where the artist is responsible for how the documentary participant looks, where they are, and what they do. Through collaborative feedback I attempt to share these responsibilities with my participant, while making use of positional and textual reflexivity to equip my audiences so they can scrutinise my documentary interventions.
Drawing on Autism was the winner of the Best Animated Film and Best Doctoral or Early Career Film of the Year at the 2021 Research in Film Awards from the AHRC.
Commenting on his win, Alex says "I am pleased to have been able to use my passion for animated documentary to shine a light on a pressing ethical issue that typically doesn’t receive the attention or discussion it deserves. My hope is for my film to honour the autistic community by addressing some of the representational issues that have been raised over decades of campaigning."