We are thrilled and humbled to share that our film LISTEN: Made by and with Nonspeaking Autistics won the Zukor Award at the 2021 Astoria Film Festival last weekend! The Zukor Award is awarded to a film that brings positive attention to an underrepresented topic or group. Congratulations to the entire, nearly entirely autistic cast and crew for this amazing and well-deserved recognition.
The Astoria Film Festival interviewed four members of the multinational cast and crew involved in the making of LISTEN, including the narrator, project manager, and storyboard co-creator (all autistic). They talk about the importance and impact of the film. A few snippets from the 16-minute interview:
- “I hope that when people watch, they will be struck by how nonspeakers actually are.... We understand, even when we cannot communicate our understanding.” - Damon Kirsebom (cast member)
- “It gives another dimension to what nonspeakers are, and I think that was important... This film was an eye-opener, especially to young people, to understand what is happening with autism and the nonspeaking community.” - Bobby Shabangu (narrator)
- “I do hope the world learns that nonspeaking autistic people have a lot to say and a lot to contribute.... It’s so important that people don’t tell other people’s stories, especially if they have little or no connection to the community they are attempting to represent.” - Jordyn Zimmerman (cast member and storyboard co-creator)
- “People who normally don’t listen actually started to listen.” - Tania Melnyczuk (project manager)
- “For me, the takeaway is just normalize nonspeaking people.” - Bobby Shabangu (narrator)
- “This is such a big step for all nonspeakers. People see us as capable of speaking for ourselves.” - Damon Kirsebom (cast member)
We are so thrilled and amazed at the impact LISTEN has had. K-12 schools, universities, SLP practices, disability conferences, psychiatrists, and medical schools are all incorporating the film into their programming, often using the accompanying resource toolkit we put together with the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. LISTEN is free, open-captioned, only 5 minutes long, available in 7 languages, and there are three versions available (including two with the restraint scene removed for younger audiences): https://communicationfirst.org/listen/
We encourage you to use the film to spread AAC awareness in your school, workplace, and community!