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There are hundreds of thousands of families in China who are affected by autism. These families often face a desperate situation. They have little or no knowledge of autism and do not know how to teach or cope with their child. They are also largely excluded by a society that does not understand or accept them. Furthermore, in China there is not a social security system, therefore financial hardships are a major additional burden.

The documentary “Children of the Stars” focuses on the Feng Jia Wei family. Their five year old boy is autistic. He cannot speak and is often very violent. He has been rejected from all their local schools and does not seem to even recognize his parents. As a family, they frequently receive verbal abuse from people who do not understand their son's behavior. The career of both parents has also been destroyed because their son requires constant care and attention. The family feel they have nowhere else to turn and as their future looks so bleak, they have been harboring a dark plan of suicide.

Their last real chance lies in a course offered by a little charity school in Beijing called “Stars and Rain”. Here, they hope to master new behavioral techniques that will enable them to teach and manage their son. If he can make enough progress then he may stand a chance of being accepted into a regular local school. If he fails, then the outlook for all of them is grim.

The family travel across the country to reach Beijing. The film then follows them as they take a deeply moving journey through the eleven weeks of the course. It is an extraordinary story of parental love as they fight to give a future to their son.

www.childrenofthestars-film.org

www.fanlight.com

This film is being screened with:
How I Am


Rob Aspey
 

Alexander Haase
 

director: Rob Aspey

Director's Statement

After beginning a film about an autistic boy in England, that was sadly cancelled, I found myself looking for similar topics when making a visit to China a few months later.

After doing some research, I discovered a school in Beijing called Stars and Rain. I gave them a call and set up a meeting. Within a few days, I knew I wanted to make a film about this place. There were no state of the art therapies and the facilities and techniques were primitive at best. Nevertheless, there was clearly something special happening there.

Families had been waiting for 2 years to attend and often arrived in a state of despair. They could not communicate with their children or understand the symptoms of autism at all. They were looking for a cure and thought that this school was where miracles happened.

There was no "miracle cure", but instead the school did deliver something equally precious. It showed them how to make emotional connections with their children using behavioural techniques and then guided them to a new way of thinking. It taught them how to find a way of living harmoniously together.

With the constant and invaluable help of both Alexander Haase (producer) and Dai Yue Rong (translator), one family was selected and we tried to capture this process in a very straightforward manner. It was essential to build real trust with the families and so we kept the crew to an absolute minimum.

Obviously, as a film-maker you try and manufacture some magic behind the camera but on this production it quickly became apparent that there was enough truly wonderful work being done in front of the camera. So I decided it would be best to keep the filming process as unobtrusive and simple as possible.

I hope you find this film as moving and as touching as the people who have been involved with the production. If it can help increase awareness and generate more help and interest about autism in China through your festival, then that would indeed be a cause for celebration.