Editor’s note: On Sunday, October 18, “Little Hero” won the special jury prize for documentary shorts at New Orleans Film Festival.
About five years ago, filmmaker Jennifer Medvin’s son, 18-month-old Xander, began displaying signs of Autism. He was subsequently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Avery, Xander’s twin sister, however, does not view her brother as being a special needs child at all.
“I was talking to Avery one day and I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she game me this huge list, a princess, a doctor, a writer, all these things,” recalls Medvin. “Then I asked her what her brother would be. And she said, ‘oh, he’s going to be a superhero. He’ll be Spiderman’.”
When Medvin asked why, Avery said, “’because he’s a good person and he helps people’. And right then I realized that she didn’t see her brother as the rest of the world does, as a special needs child,” says Medvin. “She sees him as a superhero. I think that’s what sparked the idea.”
At the time, the types of autism films that were available were all seen from a parental or an adult perspective, says Medvin. “They were all filled with percentages of statistics that people with autism now and who is being diagnosed and as an autism parent, I know those statistics. I know how hard it is to get your child LEDE services. We’ve been through the ringer on this. I wanted something different that would be educational.”
Medvin approached Producer/Director/Writer Marcus A. McDouglad with the idea and he immediately jumped on board the project.
Little Hero benefits from some unique visual effects, courtesy of the U.K.’s Russ Murphy, d.b.a. RUFFMERCY, who has added his visual touches to music videos for Lily Allen and others, and some quirkily appropriate music from composer Carl Sondrol.
While this is the first film Medvin has directed, she has written or produced others that have screened all over the world and at Oscar-qualifying film festivals, and she’s used her surgical registered nursing skills as a medical advisor on multiple projects, including assisting the medical advisor on Private Practice.
And what does Medvin hope people will learn from her film? “Hopefully people won’t stare as much when Zander starts spinning, when he does the chest beating and makes these noises and maybe pulls at his lip. He’s a great little boy, he’s a beautiful, little boy, he’s just different.”
“Little Hero” made its Southern premiere Friday at the New Orleans Film Festival, and will have an encore screening Wednesday, October 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Canal Place 2.