ELIZABETH, NJ - In observance of Autism Awareness Month, Elizabeth native Theo Perkins presented his film on the subject, Hands To The Sky, in the City Hall Council Chambers, April 25.
The film's main character, Eugene, is an autistic adult. The short film, which was nominated for an Africa Movie Academy Award, depicts Eugene’s interactions with his family, friends, and community.
“As an artist, we ask questions about the environment, and this is one of the questions that kept coming up,” explained the film maker. Perkins, who is one of the founders of the Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble. He spoke of watching a young, autistic cousin. “I used to watch him with a piece of clay and think this is something that should be in a museum. I wonder what his life would be like as an adult.”
The film resonated with members of the audience. Board of Education Commissioner Jose Rodriguez said, “In a world where we like to label people, we need to find another way. We need to look at our special needs children as being differently abled.”
Perkins plans to expand the film into a feature length version to be shot entirely in Elizabeth, beginning in January 2018. “He is planting a seed in his hometown,” said his aunt Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste. “The arts are so important. Art expression is universal. It makes us aware, accept, and include.”