The mother I met up with today shared her experience of going to the cinema with her son. At one point during the show, he started laughing. It would have been no big deal if it had been a funny scene. Unfortunately, it was not and his laughter elicited a cacophony of irritated hushes from the rest of the audience.
This reminded me of an idea I have of an inclusive cinema experience for all people. This idea was planted in my head earlier this year in May when I came across sensory friendly movie showings by AMC theatres. They are like any other cinema operator, except that they have allocated certain timeslots every month for certain movies to be screened in a sensory friendly environment. This means the lights are turned up, the sound volume is turned down, and audience members are free to move about, shout, and sing. Wow.
A bit more Googling turned up another interesting find. An organisation in the UK, called Dimensions, partners with different cinemas to offer autism friendly film screenings. All I could think of was, We need to do this here in Singapore.
Of course, after I got over my initial excitement, I knew it would be difficult for me to pull it off alone. I knew nobody up there in the film industry, and it would take time and effort to reach and connect with people who could make things happen.
Doubt also crept into my mind as I thought about it more. Will parents here appreciate this? Will people view it as discriminatory? Will the ignorant public turn this well-intentioned platform into a freak show on display? I had many questions, and no answers.
I saved this little idea in my folder and decided that I would re-visit it once my book was done.
That was five months ago, and little did I expect to re-visit it so soon.
After sharing that incident at the cinema, the mother expressed her wish that cinema-goers be more understanding. She acknowledged that having autism was indeed no excuse for inappropriate behaviour in public, but that it would be great to have a special screening where autistic people and their families could watch a regular movie without the stress and worry of upsetting other cinema-goers.
I think it’s God saying something to me here. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do next or how I’m going to make this little wish a reality. But I know God has His ways; I just need to avail myself to them.