Owen Suskind was a chatty, thriving 3-year-old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent.
Owen’s Pulitzer-prize winning journalist father, Ron Suskind, wrote The New York Times best-seller “Life, Animated – A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism” about how the family found a unique way to communicate with Owen.
“After years of not being able to communicate, Owen’s love of film, specifically classic Disney animated films, helped him break through his silence to communicate with his family and eventually allow him to engage with and find his place in the world,” Utah Film Center Artistic Director Patrick Hubley said.
A movie based on the book will be shown at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m.
The award-winning “Life, Animated” premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Documentary Grand Jury Award for Directing.
The film shows how the entire family memorizes dialogue from classic Disney films like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King” – tools that end up helping “him understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him,” according to the film’s website.
“I expect that the film will speak to the power of family, film, and a willingness to think outside of the box,” Grand County Public Library Head of Adult Services Meghan Flynn said. “We are looking forward to hosting such a hopeful and thought provoking documentary in Moab.”
The free screening is part of a collaboration between the Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center to bring independent and thoughtful films to Moab each month.
The film center presented “Life, Animated” with its annual Peek Award during a recent screening in Salt Lake City.
Named for Utah native Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for the film “Rain Man,” the Peek Award is given to films for “changing perceptions of people living with disabilities.”
Seven years ago, “Rain Man” screenwriter Barry Morrow gave his Academy Award to the Utah Film Center to honor the community for its embrace of Peek, “an autistic savant who was loved and now will be remembered for generations to come through our annual award,” Hubley said.
In addition to the Peek and Sundance Directing awards, “Life, Animated” won the 2016 audience awards at the Berkshire International Film Festival; the Full Frame Film Festival; the Nantucket Film Festival; Telluride Mountainfilm; and the San Francisco International Film Festival.
According to Suskind’s website, the movie is more than a story about autism, or Disney – it is about “a family’s resilience when their world is turned upside down. It’s about perseverance and hope. What the journey of this boy and his family powerfully reveals: how, in darkness, we literally need stories to survive.”
Director Roger Ross Williams is the first African-American director to win an Academy Award, for “Music by Prudence” in 2012. He also directed “God Loves Uganda,” which won dozens of awards and was short-listed for a 2014 Academy Award.
“The Utah Film Circuit is delighted to present this film in partnership with Grand County Library,” outreach coordinator Sallie Hodges said. “’Life, Animated’ is a heartwarming film that shows the power of communication. In this case it is through the cinematic experience. It is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking, sad and joyful, but never saccharine. It is a wonderfully uplifting film that our Moab audience will love.”
“Life, Animated” showing at Star Hall on Nov. 17
What: The Utah Film Center and the Grand County Public Library present “Life, Animated”
When: Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E Center St.
Information: 435-259-7386; www.lifeanimateddoc.com