Google the phrase “the power of cinema,” and you’ll be faced with a stream of think pieces discussing film’s unmatched ability to issue enlightenment for generations to come. For Owen Suskind, “the power of cinema” was not only very real but life changing, and the Oscar-nominated documentary that follows his story, screening tonight at Pelham’s Picture House Regional Film Center, manages to reverberate his unique experience.
“All of a sudden at 3 years old, Owen vanishes,” a voice explains in the trailer to Life, Animated, the film based on the bestseller of the same name written by Suskind’s father, Pulitzer-winning journalist Ron Suskind. Suskind and his wife, Cornelia, will be in attendance for an audience-led Q&A session after the screening.
As a child with autism, Suskind developed an inability to speak with his family, until “one day,” as Ron explains in the trailer “we’re watching the Disney-animated movies, and he says he doesn’t want to grow up like Mowgli or Peter Pan.”
The film follows how that phenomenon commenced Suskind’s parents’ 20-year journey to communicating and connecting with their son by immersing themselves in Disney classics. Nominated for an Oscar in “Best Documentary Feature,” Life, Animated is evidence of the power of cinema, having helped to fuel research on the compensatory strengths of those with autism or other distinctive neurological backgrounds.