The United States of Autism Is a Well-Meaning Documentary That May Do More Harm Than Good

Location Info


Quad Cinema

34 W. 13th St.
New York, NY 10011

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Greenwich Village


The United States of Autism
Directed by Richard Everts
Tommy Foundations
Opens August 9, Quad Cinema

The United States of Autism is an example of a well-meaning documentary that may do more harm than good. The father of a teenager "on the spectrum," Richard Everts sets out on a cross-country trip, meeting 20 people also with autism, mostly children, and their families. The film's great contribution is its brief profiles of these people from all walks of life and various racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. We see children of different ages affected in varying degrees. We see them play, see their mothers cry, and witness frustration and joy. We also see much of Everts, perhaps too much, as he inserts his personal but unrelated rejection-and-reunion saga with his father. Very little about the autism spectrum or its therapies is explained, so many discussions are mystifying. Intriguing topics come up—medical issues, policy issues, philosophical issues—that are never explored. Worse, Everts allows in the vaccines-as-cause controversy through his interviews without balancing it in any way. The science is no longer out on that; the connection has been debunked. That Everts doesn't even present a scientist's view, even though he interviews a scientist, is journalistic malpractice. Weird sideshows, like a motivational speaker who claims to be cured of autism and a doctor who connects diet and allergies to autism, add to the muddle.

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I'm not sure how anyone can say the science of vaccine causation is "debunked" and at the same time admit that no one knows what causes autism.   Is it like, autism can be caused by anything, EXCEPT vaccines?  So, because "science" without a doubt "debunked" any possible link with vaccines, the thousands of parents who saw and documented on video how their children disappeared immediately after getting these vaccines are just plain nuts?   Ah, OK, thanks for clearing that up, "science"!


Unfortunately the author of this review has completely missed the mark.  The film shows real families with autism from all across our nation who actually live autism 24/7.  They have no ulterior motives.  They know what they live and they share those experiences and that knowledge.   Sure, you may be at a loss to find those views, that knowledge and those experiences in the media, on television or in the news headlines, because they are real, unbridled and unfiltered.  This film has extreme value in that it shows EVERY side of autism as it is, not how some would have it be.  This is it.  This is real.  This film IS autism.  Period.  


I saw this film before and I would have to really disagree with this reviewer. The film is well done and is more about looking into the various social, ethnic and economic groups that Autism affects. The film isn't meant to be a "scientific" look into Autism. I think the reviewer may have missed the theme of the film. It's okay. It happens to the best of them. My suggestion would be to actually go out and see the film for yourself.

Also, the reviewers statement that a link between Autism and vaccines have already been "debunked" is false. Especially when there are still plenty of court settlements with "gag orders" given to families who have gone to trial over vaccines and Autism. There are also many scientific journals that have published peer reviewed studies, as recent as 2013, that suggest possible links between the MMR vaccine and Autism.


It's great to review a film and lend your opinion, but please research your facts before you claim something has been "debunked" and "case closed"...


The reviews are coming. The reviews are coming. It is so exciting to see our film project "The United States of Autism" make a bid for the academy award for best documentary. Oscar Dreams. I never knew the politics and process that goes into winning awards and distribution of a movie.  A theme that seems to be emerging in some of the reviews is a question about the Father Son reunion Rich Everts the Director decided to include In this new Autism feature film.

   I am writing today as a Dad who saw his son disappear before his eyes. Everyday is a struggle seeing this hulking specimen of a young man now almost 16 and not have the slightest ability to do any of the typical Father Son type activities. I am also writing in the throes of depression, as I just lost my Father unexpectedly who was my best friend and soul mate.  I believe we were both on a similar point on the spectrum. Just enough, that many times we talked but did not listen to other. Years of thinking we did not connect. Me singing "Cats in the Cradle" The line "When you coming home Dad I don't know when".

The film seeks not to dig deep into the many facets of Autism but to show the breadth of the situation and no matter the diversity ( Race, Religion, Region, Economic situation or point on the spectrum) our passion for our families and the drive to survive is basic to our way of life. The film teaches us no matter our differences the human spirit and "American Dream" is still alive.

Rich Everts recently wrote this " A few people missed the point of the father-reunion as well, which was the inability to find answers for my son due to the challenges relating to my own father, a common issue with men and their sons, especially severely challenged ones." I  agree so much with this and the inclusion in the movie. Speaking directly to my heart it is a message of a pain that I wish more could understand. The reviewers just do not grasp the impact Autism has on a family.

The segment to me represents the separations we all feel when dealing with Autism. A mother to child, sibling to sibling, Grandparent to grandchild. I hope families stand up for this movie and declare for its beauty, grace, dignity and honesty in handling such a difficult and to date un-addressed in a serious way topic. A movie cannot address everything but as Rich has said often there is enough in the movie to make everybody happy and mad. I hope and pray the the discussions brought about by this wonderful piece of art spur conversations that lead to the many changes needed for the Autism community and maybe even ask the big Why question when it comes to causation.


Didn't realize there was some Cliffnotes version of the film available somewhere! Did you even bother to watch this film or were you too busy with other projects to actually finish thoughts? Way to totally miss the point on just about everything like perhaps even the disclaimer in the beginning that explains it isn't a movie about trying to prove anything scientifically or to prove anything at all other than explain the heart and minds behind the various positions within the larger autism movement. The lack of unity within the movement because of fears and often hatred over differences is tearing it apart and not allowing them to be as effective as they could be if they actually worked together and realized those things we have in common rather than our differences.  The director beautifully does this while including an unheard of amount of viewpoints from various faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds. 


Clearly the author doesn't have a firm 'handle' on autism based on the criticism and perhaps had little understanding on what the narrator/director's purpose was on the onset.  The reason why things like relating back to his father would be important are because in a world where you are told that most fathers leave their disabled children or families (The supposed rate is 80-85% of marriages end in divorce), showing the catharsis he goes through to be there for his own child and to love without judgement is perhaps the greatest gift he can give the audience best suited to relate to his story. 

Also this wasn't supposed to be a film about 'therapies', there is enough of that out there (see "Wretchers and Jabberers" or "A Mother's Courage").  This film was supposed to be about the heart that lies behind each family. How despite our differences we are all more alike than we are different.  If the author of this jibberish understood the actual politicized autism movement, than perhaps they would understand the need to have a platform for those differences to speak freely while still allowing everyone to see all the things that bring us all together as a movement.  Nice that there is no mention of the fact that no autism film has EVER focused on this breath of diversity--Mormons, Muslim, single mothers of multiple races and ethnicities, families of multiple ethnicities and races etc... Even among adults interviewed or focused on there is one that yes believes he is recovered, but then also 2 adults that believe in the concept of neurodiversity, and 1 that is not able to be interviewed but whose story is told via his family since he is now in an institution. That this critic limited their breath to simple controversial themes that perhaps take 3 minutes total of air time in a 90 minute film shows their lack of compassion and understanding for the larger cause at hand.


This documentary never intended, as explained in the beginning of the film, to medically or scientifically "explain Autism" to anyone!

This film was always about, and accomplished, sharing the voices of a sampling of families affected by Autism, across the United States.

Affected families sharing their stories, their opinions, their joy, sorrow, anger, and pride...Yes, this was not only accomplished in US of Autism, but it was STELLAR use of Free Speech.

Nothing to fear from this documentary, unless of course, one's lack of Autism awareness, acceptance, and understanding makes it "uncomfortable" to watch!In that case, the viewer ought to be uncomfortable!


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