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Film "Wretches and Jabberers" Profiles Autistic Adults' Activism

Newsweek has a piece, Autism Finds Its Voice, which discusses a documentary about autistic adults, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, and their travels and advocacy (which are combined for this film).

In the documentary Wretches & Jabberers, Tracy Thresher and his friend Larry Bissonnette, who is also autistic, travel from Vermont to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland to meet with other autistic adults. Both men grew up not speaking: Larry spent his childhood in institutions, while Tracy attended special-education classes where he passed his days doing puzzles. As adults they learned to type and acquired some verbal abilities. Today they are advocates for their condition, speaking (with the aid of their keyboards and assistants) at conferences about the myths and realities of autism. The goal of the tour, Tracy types in the film, is to “make a difference in the lives of people who can’t talk but are intelligent.”

A short, related piece in Newsweek, And if Autism Were a Song, It Might Sound Like This, discusses the music used in the movie.

The music for Wretches & Jabberers was written by composer and musician J. Ralph, who scored the Academy Award–winning documentaries The Cove and Man on Wire. After watching the film, Ralph asked his musician friends to collaborate on the soundtrack. The catch was they couldn’t hear the songs first. Ralph wanted to capture the musicians discovering the music in the same way the subjects of the film discover language as they learn to type and communicate. Several of the songs borrow the phrases of the film’s subjects for their lyrics.

This piece ends with the positive note:

“I have friends that are on the spectrum, but for me this film is about basic human rights.” Including the right to be heard, even when the process is killingly hard.

I hope the film lives up to the message.

The tour so far for the movie is listed here, with more video clips here (which I’ll probably embed soon in a new post, but go look anyway).


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