Vectors of Autism – Laura Nagel

This is a quick recommendation of the documentary “Vectors of Autism” about 57-year old Laura Nagel and her life as an undiagnosed autistic adult, now self-diagnosed aspie. Here is the trailer:

 

 
The whole movie can currently be watched for free! on Culture Unplugged: Vectors of Autism.

The film is directed by John Schaffer, produced by Susan Marks and co-produced by Leah Kelley. Cinematographer Matt Nelson.

I saw it not long ago, and really like it. I’m not sure if I can explain what I like about it, but it is an honest, balanced and entertaining portrait of what it means for one individual to live with autism.

The beginning paragraph of the book Songs of the Gorilla Nation comes to mind, where the author states that “This is a book about autism. Specifically, it is about my autism, which is both like and unlike other peoples’ autism”.

Same with Laura’s autism… she is unique, yet characteristic of Asperger’s. The movie conveys that point beautifully through its alternation between Laura’s subjective perspective, her surroundings (places) and life circumstances, and the surrounding people/community’s view on Laura (I got the impression she is well accepted in her local community), and through a balanced focus on her strengths and difficulties.

Additional things I like about the movie: its pleasant creative & musical side and smooth transitions between perspectives with Laura’s own artwork (specifically: drawings of buildings et.c.), which is both relevant, good looking and visually entertaining.

I also like that the film doesn’t try to tell the viewer what to think; there is a lot of talk since most of the film consist of interviews, but a lot of the story takes place outside the words – in the way Laura walks and moves, the way she laughs, the way she thinks, the way she lives, her opportunities and limitations, and so on. While people if they wanted to could describe her as more or less normal based on some quantitative criteria – she wouldn’t fool anyone for long in regard to these soft, subtle social aspects: people may not be able to pigeon hole her as autistic if they are not familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, but they would definitely be able to single her out as “different”, “one of a kind”, and “odd-ball”, or something similar.

Read more: there has been some live tweeting of the movie going on today here (perhaps still is). I’m also under the impression that Sam of Postcards from the edge of the Spectrum is going to put a review up here: Vectors of Autism later, and he has already put up a brief description and links to related websites, so that is probably a good place to go for more information.

 
 

drawing of head-machine combi, "selfportrait" by laura nagel

Illustration from cultureunplugged.com

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6 thoughts on “Vectors of Autism – Laura Nagel

  1. humanitysdarkerside

    I think I am going to watch this, both for my own sake but also for my son’s. And possibly for the sake of others – like my husband and other son. For some reason, the thought of it scares me, which tells me that my need is strong. At least 50 years have taught me ONE thing.

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    1. Anna

      That when information scares you, then it is important?

      The movie is not scary at all, it is a warm and balanced portrait with a feel-good feel to it, although it does portrait Laura’s difficulties/shortcomings and their consequences very well… The music theme is still humming in the back of my head now almost a week after watching it, it has a calming feel to it:-) just like the movie does too.

      It is not the story about your son’s future anyway (necessarily)… it is just one possible version of autistic adulthood out of many … every person is unique and has to make his/her own way (I know it is obvious, I am just reminding of it since it is easy to forget amidst all the stereotypes and wanting to systematise the future).

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      1. humanitysdarkerside

        Nah, it wasn’t the thought of the information in the movie. It has more to do with self-doubt. What if it had shown me that I was a fake when it came to autism. Well, it didn’t. I’m very different to Laura, but also very similar. My son was and is very similar to Eric in the film although he hides rather than pace in the halls. We are both hiders, he and I.
        What I wish for, after hearing Laura put words to it, is that there was a place in this world for people who have such a high anxiety level along with their autism as my son and Eric do. I have medication that reduces mine and that has been a relief in my life.
        I loved this movie and linked it to my twitter. Thank you so very much for blogging about it.

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      2. Anna

        Thank you for reading and commenting:-)

        Interesting what you said about self-doubt… I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’m also different to Laura as a person, but spot similarities too in the more general structural life issues. E.g. I don’t have the same interests and strengths: no architecture, no planes!, and I’m crap at drawing!:-) and I don’t live her life – I’m married, had a different upbringing, and have a different way of thinking differently:-) However, I recognise and identify with her life situation in a more general way and with her type of personality and types of strengths and difficulties (more so than with many other aspies).

        Thank you very much for your nice words:-)

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