Taste on Autism is an 8 minute animated short film by Ben Htoo that was created for his individual Major Project for Raffles Design Institute in December 2009. It tells the story of an Autistic boy and a neurotypical girl who first meet as children. The girl immediately takes a liking to the boy but when she tries to get his attention by touching him, unaware that he is Autistic, he responds angrily, prompting her to run off. Many years later, they encounter each other again. He is a customer at a burger restaurant and she is a waitress there. Another incident prompts another angry response. When she learns that he is Autistic, however, she develops a whole new understanding of him and gets him a job working at the restaurant. Still, he seems to be a very sad individual and only when she asks him to go with her to a special learning centre for Autistic people do things change. He learns to cope with his Autism in ways he never could before and a romance begins between the two, him being truly happy for the first time in his life as a result of their relationship, the new found friendships with others around him and a whole new confidence that was missing in his life before. Eventually, he becomes truly independent although the ending is also tinged with sadness.
As an individual with Autism myself I am perhaps not best qualified to provide a truly objective review of Taste on Autism. What I can do, however, is provide an Autistic perspective on the film. While the film occasionally perpetuates the image of Autistic people as being angry and dismissive, it also offers some insight into why this is the case, making clear the fact that certain things that many take for granted, such as unwanted physical contact, can be very upsetting for individuals with Autism and that a negative reaction that many result is not reflective of the individual being angry or unpleasant, rather just a misunderstanding of the rules of social interaction that most take for granted. Ben Htoo seems to have some understanding of Autism as the film is very respectful and honest in the way it portrays its central character and his difficulties. The man is not unpleasant, he is just lonely and all it takes for him to feel happy is acceptance and understanding of who he is and what makes him special. The story is both inspirational and sweet, being the very kind of thing that really could happen and for me it really did inspire feelings of happiness and even a tinge of sadness at the end, and I am sure it will for you too, whether you have Autism yourself or not.
There is an almost magical quality to the film with the music, provided courtesy of Associated Production Music and Walt Disney Records (you may well have heard it before elsewhere), having a very enchanting essence, capturing the mood perfectly and emphasising the emotion that is being portrayed quite effectively through the visuals. The animation is simplistic but quite beautiful and works well with the story that is being told and the decision to portray much of what is going on visually rather than through dialogue – there is no dialogue at all – is an inspired one, with the images being utilized portraying what is going on in a simplistic yet effective way that individuals with Autism should easily understand and relate to, bypassing the awkward aspects of interaction that those with Autism find so hard to understand. This is a particularly good touch. Simply put, Taste on Autism is a perfect representation of Autism. It shows that those of us with Autism are people with feelings and that all we really want is to be accepted by the world that seems so alien to us. A truly magical and enchanting short film, this not only portrays Autism in a positive light but is also a very well made piece of animation and a very enjoyable one to watch, whether you are Autistic yourself or not. At a short running time of only 8 minutes, it won’t take up much of your time to watch and you may just feel a bit more enlightened about Autism for doing so.
This is a follow up to my previous post which contains the full film of Taste on Autism and can be found here: http://thewonderfulworldofautism.blogspot.com/2010/09/short-film-taste-on-autism.html
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)