Published: 25th January 2021
Aim to dispel stigma, normalise conversations around autistic children: Director Shreedhar BS on 'In Our World'
Shreedhar said he initially wanted to understand the impact of music on special children when the piano teacher of his kids mentioned about teaching music to special children
Director Shreedhar B S says his documentary "In Our World" was born out of a desire to put a spotlight on the society's discrimination towards autistic children and help normalise conversations around the condition.
The film, which documents the lives of three autistic children, explored through their day-to-day lived reality, had its premiere in the Indian Panorama Non-Feature category, at the 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
The 51-minute documentary features interviews of parents and therapists to understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Shreedhar said he initially wanted to understand the impact of music on special children when the piano teacher of his kids mentioned about teaching music to special children.
He soon realised that the story had a bigger potential: how society views these children.
"We need to bring out their lives in the forefront so that people understand the difficulty they face because of the discriminatory nature of the society. I wanted to dispel society's misunderstanding and make a film which takes the message of the parents to the world." He started piecing together the struggle of parents of autistic children by meeting up with Mumbai-based families, teachers and therapists in 2019.
He met six families and narrowed it down to chronicling the lives of three for the screen.
Shreedhar said before the filming began, he researched for about three months to understand the condition completely as he was conscious of not sending out "any wrong communication."
"I wanted the reality to be put on screen. I didn't want to 'recreate' moments, there's no voice-over in the film. These conversations had impacted me and I wanted the audience to feel the same, like they are part of the room, with the family. I didn't want my version of their story," he added.
One of the most important aspects of filming the documentary was to first befriend the children, a process that took time.
Shreedhar said it was a necessity as the children had to accept him, the crew, camera, and the entire shoot set up.
"We had to gain their trust and friendliness. If a child was doing a particular hand movement, I had to understand what it meant. Is he angry, upset? I had to learn body signs so that I could dictate the crew to resume or stop shooting. We also had to gain the trust of the parents to open to us. They've gone through their hardships so it was important for them to have confidence in my vision and medium."
By the end of the shoot for "In Our World", the director had "multiple layers of footage" which took six months of editing.
At the film's premiere, Shreedhar said he was overwhelmed with the response and hoped the messaging of the project reached to the audience.
"There are emotional transitions in the film. It starts off with how difficult is the fact to accept your child is autistic. You're in denial. You then accept it, overcome it, be courageous enough to go out and say 'Yes my child is autistic.' One must muster the courage because there exist this stigma and apathy towards these children. Which is why parents live in fear. I wanted this awareness to be there so that the stigma that there's today, goes away," he added.