Oscar-winning actor Ben Affleck, Pixar filmmakers Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera, AutFest founder Matt Asner and several filmmakers were honored this week for their filmmaking contributions to autism awareness “from spectrum to screen” at the 1st Annual AutFest International Film Festival (April 22-23) in Orange, California.
Seven-time Emmy winner and autism advocate Ed Asner presented Affleck with the AutFest Awareness Award at the festival’s closing reception at Café Tu Tu Tango. Prior to the reception, Affleck participated in a Q&A moderated by ABC7 reporter George Pennacchio after a screening of his 2016 film The Accountant, in which he portrayed a forensic accountant on the autism spectrum.
Earlier in the day, Oscar-winning Pixar filmmakers Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera were honored by Asner with the AutFest Vanguard Award after a screening of their film Inside Out at AMC Orange 30. The filmmakers discussed the autism community’s embracing of their film in a Q&A with moderator Terry Flores, senior editor at Variety. Celebrities such as singer/actress Becky G (Power Rangers), David Marciano (Homeland), Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson and The Voice season 11 contestant Tarra Layne were on hand to attend the festival’s closing festivities.
“AutFest is proud to honor outstanding filmmakers Ben Affleck, Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera for their cinematic contributions reflecting the autism community,” said Matt Asner, AutFest founder and Autism Society’s VP of Development. “Presented by The Autism Society, AutFest’s mission is to celebrate films that promote autism awareness ‘from spectrum to screen’ and support autistic filmmakers and artists that have chosen film as their profession. We were touched by the overwhelming support of the filmmaking and autism communities and look forward to making this an annual event.” Asner was the recipient of a Golden Goody Award presented by Autism Guardian Angels founder David Luber.
Over nine feature films and six short films were presented during the two-day festival that included this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary Life, Animated and international films from China (Destiny) and Malaysia (Redha). Two of the shorts, Even in Death and The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born, were written and directed by filmmakers on the autism spectrum. Panelists included Po’s director John Asher and actor Julian Feder, as well as an autism sibling panel following the Life, Animated screening.
The 1st Annual AutFest International Film Festival winners include:
• Po, directed by John Asher (U.S.A.)
• Swim Team, directed by Lara Stolman (U.S.A.)
• The Buddy System, directed by William Harris and Megan Smith-Harris (U.S.A.)
• Julian Feder, Po (U.S.A.)
• The Accountant, directed by Gavin O’Connor (U.S.A.)
Best Autistic Filmmaker:
• Zac Davis, Even in Death (U.S.A.)
AutFest took place at the AMC Orange 30, as part of Autism Society’s eight-year partnership with AMC Theatres for AMC Sensory Friendly Films, a screening program allows families with special needs to see films in a welcoming environment. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, AMC Theatres agreed to show Autism Society’s recently released PSA, created by autistic animation artist Dani Bowman, in theaters nationwide.
AutFest Honorary Committee Members included Ed Asner, actress Kristen Bell (House of Lies), actor Dax Shepard (CHIPS), actress comedian Sarah Silverman, actor Matthew Modine (Stranger Things), actor Gary Cole (Veep), Autism Speaks co-founder Bob Wright, The Suzanne Wright Foundation president Liz Feld, Warner Bros. president and CCO Peter Roth and Autism Society’s VP of Development Matt Asner.
AutFest is proudly sponsored by Hyundai, Warner Bros. Television, Therasurf, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Autism Guardian Angels, AMC Theatres, Bob Wright, Fullerton Cares, Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Premier Healthcare Services, Autism Works Now, Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance Companies, Heritage Pointe “Senior Living in the Jewish Tradition,” Neil Haley and Technicolor. Media sponsors include ABC 7 Eyewitness News and Variety.