Who are the Autism Globetrotters? We are an international team of autism advocates spreading the message of diversity and inclusion, as we demonstrate and articulate the passions and hopes of people with autism through film. Although we possess zero basketball skills, the Autism Globetrotters–aka the writer, director, producers and lead actors of Keep the Change and their families–are traveling the world. We have been at numerous film festivals throughout the US and even to the Czech Republic. Sometimes Keep the Change is screened in faraway places without the Globetrotters, (we skipped Estonia) but more often than not, Keep the Change is represented by Rachel Israel, her husband and producer Kurt Enger, along with Samantha Elisofon, Brandon Polansky and their families. Which means we all do an awful lot of traveling (one of us with a baby strapped to her chest!)
I’m starting to think audiences love us the way they love the Harlem Globetrotters. Our skill is quieter than the razzle dazzle of sinking seemingly impossible basketballs backwards and over our heads. Instead, on the Autism Globetrotters we entertain and surprise audiences with a message that is simple but profound. Adults with autism fall in and out of love, form friendships and seek connection, just the way neurotypical people do. Their roads may be different, and perhaps a little bumpier, but all people wrestle with the same romantic problems: How much of your true self do you reveal to a romantic partner? How and when should one person open up? Can someone truly love and accept someone else without first accepting his or her limitations? These are universal questions.
Speaking of (and about) universal questions, Samantha Elisofon and Rachel Israel from Keep the Change are presenting at the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day next week with Aubrie Therrien, Executive Director of EPIC Players, a neurodiverse theater group pioneering inclusion and diversity in the arts. Clips from KTC will be shown and discussed with parents, autism experts, and government officials from all over the world. The UN theme this year is Empowering Women and Girls with Autism. What could be more empowering than the story of an actress with autism, a director willing to cast her as the female lead in an award-winning film, and a neurodiverse theater group whose mission is to nurture the talents of those with and without autism, teaching them how to work together and create art? I consider EPIC’s founder Aubrie an honorary Globetrotter, as she is training the future Autism Globetrotters along with my daughter.
After arriving home from the Boston Reel Abilities Film Festival and briefly (ever so briefly) catching my breath, we Globetrotters are off to Israel! Samantha, her co-star Brandon, and director Rachel have been invited to the premiere of Keep the Change in Tel Aviv. After seeing the film in Karlovy Vary, Eyal Shiray felt that the film was “very important and should be seen at theaters throughout Israel.” He also confided that he especially wanted Samantha to come to the premiere, because he saw how audiences had “fallen in love with her” in the Czech Republic. Could this really be the same Samantha who was kicked out of her special ed school at age 8 and whom we were told to institutionalize when she got older? (!!!) The answer, of course, is yes and no….
Our SUPER magical mystery tour continues in Israel from Thursday, April 19th to Thursday, April 26th. Keep the Change will premiere in Tel Aviv on Sunday, April 22nd at the Lev Cinema, with a second screening and Q & A on Monday, April 23rd. Next we go to Smadar Cinema in Jerusalem on Tuesday, April 24th for another screening. Finally, on Wednesday, we go for a special screening and Q & A 30 minutes from Tel Aviv in Ra’anana. When not fulfilling our globetrotting duties at screenings, we will be sightseeing and going on whirlwind tours to the Masada, the holocaust museum, and whatever else our host decides we should see.
I never thought we’d take another trip that would be nearly as exciting and magical as the Karlovy Vary Film Festival last summer. But traveling to Israel (where I haven’t been in 40 years, and where my husband and daughter have never visited) has all the earmarks of being the most thrilling adventure so far…