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“Keep the Change” might be the most important film I saw this year. August 18, 2018

Posted by lgvora in Movies.
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Something I learned, and continue to learn, as the sister to a brother who has Asperger Syndrome is that autistic people are not typically well understood in North American culture. Maybe this has something to do with who’s doing the storytelling. While a few films about people with autism have been released in recent years, the actors who tell the story aren’t always autistic.

This is what makes Keep the Change—and the fact that it won Best Picture at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival—so important. It is a film about autistic people, based on the lives of real autistic people, played by autistic people. It’s a film that dignifies their lives, validates their experiences, and helps others understand their situations in a way that abled actors couldn’t convey.

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In short, Keep the Change is about David, a thirty-something autistic man who, after telling a cop an inappropriate joke, is mandated to join a social skills group at the Jewish Community Center.

But it is about so much more than that. It’s a story about coming to terms with who you are, when you have long denied that you’re different. It’s about being a person with special needs in a family that looks down on and stigmatizes people who have special needs. It is about becoming part of a group of people like you, and admitting that you need their help. It’s about falling in love with one of those people, and the complications of being in a romantic relationship when you’re autistic (for instance, touching each other affectionately or going out on dates can be confusing and hard).

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One of the words critics are using to describe Keep the Change is “disarming.” And it is that. The characters have brave, difficult conversations about the behavior of and attitudes toward people with special needs. In a particularly wince-worthy scene, David feels ashamed when his girlfriend, not understanding social cues, embarrasses him in front of a group of Broadway actors. He ends up angrily telling her to shut up, further embarrassing everyone present. While the film portrays the characters empathetically and thoughtfully, it doesn’t sugarcoat or romanticize autism.

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The film is also disarming in its sweetness. One scene that brought me to tears was when David took Sarah on a date at Coney Island. The two go on a ride together, and David, feeling overwhelmed by the lights and sounds around him, has a meltdown. Instead of judging him, Sarah gives him a hug. She receives him with tenderness and patience in a way that his family has not.

Another beautiful thing about the film is how vibrant, warm, and genuinely funny the supporting cast of autistic actors are. They are playing real people, not caricatures of autistic people. The joy and power they bring to the film is not something that abled actors playing autistic adults could replicate.

Our society needs stories that dignify and shed light on the lives of autistic people, and Keep the Change is one small but important step in that direction. I am so excited and proud that our library has selected it to be part of our collection.

Lyndsey

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Top 7 of 2017 December 13, 2017

Posted by brubakerb in eBooks, Graphic Novel, Movies, Non-Fiction, Top Ten.
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Let me introduce myself since I’m the newest sub at the Reference Desk. You might also see me around the library shelving for the Circulation Department. I’m Byron. I’ve written movie reviews online for Flixster (now Rotten Tomatoes) and published a collection of 365 of those reviews in my book 100+ Years of Movies. Through some entrepreneurial struggles and not having as much leisure time to read I’ve unfortunately fallen short of my reading goal this year. It seemed silly to me to recommend my top 10 when I only read 22 books all year. Therefore, listed in the order I read them, I present my Top 7!

Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert by Roger Ebert • I regularly read about the art of cinema. As the cover says this contains some of the best of Ebert’s writing throughout forty years of his career. If you are only familiar with his reviews, you can sample his essays and unique interviews here too.

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates • Journalist Coates has such important things to say about race relations in America. It is not to be dismissed, but will likely require careful repeat reading of passages to fully grasp everything. Glancing at my co-workers’ posts earlier this week I’ve noticed that at least two others have also recommended this work.

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Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson • Marvel has had certain writers reimagining classic heroes to introduce more diversity. Volume 5 in the series about Muslim American teen Kamala Khan is a return to the excitement of the beginning of the series considering I thought Volumes 3 and 4 went a little off track.

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March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis • During 2017 I read all three parts of this graphic novel autobiographical series by Congressman John Lewis. Book One is slightly weaker in structure with so much exposition compared to Book Two and Book Three, however taken together they are all very strong. This period of history comes alive in graphic format.

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American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard • I’ve been intrigued by this title for quite awhile. I had to wait several months to check out the ebook on OverDrive. I’ve been struggling to understand recent National election results and have felt the country is more divided than united. America is more complicated than two political parties, red states, and blue states. This book dives into North America’s history and uncovers eleven cultural nations that have been vying for power since the beginning.

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