Autism through cinema: body language and the illegible body


  • Prof Janet Harbord

    Queen Mary University of London

  • Dr Steven Eastwood

    Queen Mary University of London

Project summary

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects the way people perceive the environment and interact with others. Diagnosis of ASD focuses on elements of communication such as the ability to assess body language and the ability to share common codes of communication.

We will address the central dilemma of how to create an understanding of diverse modes of bodily communication without reproducing categories of healthy and abnormal behaviour. By comparing a history of bodily gesture from archive film over the course of a century, we will collaborate with people with ASD to reinvent cinematic language. Working with user groups and activists in the autistic community, a history of representations and misrepresentations of autism will be gathered, and a different film grammar proposed as a way of expanding public understanding of autism.

The project will produce a new picture of neurodiverse experience which better represents people with autism in film.