AWFJ Women On Film – “The Horse Boy” – Susan Granger reviews

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“It’s not the destination; it’s the journey” – that’s what propels a young couple to take their autistic five year-old son to Mongolia to trek on horseback through the high mountains and down into a valley where, according to mystical tradition, reindeer-herding shamans practice healing rituals.

Rupert Isaacson is a journalist/human rights activist and his wife, Kristin Neff, is a psychology professor. After many years of globe-trotting, they settle in Austin, Texas, where they enjoy a ‘perfect’ life until their son, Rowan, is diagnosed with autism. After two years of countless traditional and alternative treatments and consultations, five year-old Rowan is still unable to communicate coherently, interact with others, control his toilet functions and curb his unpredictable, hours-long outbursts of screaming. But Rowan seems to have a natural affinity for animals, particularly a kinship with horses. Aware that in Mongolia, shamanism is the preferred method of healthcare, Rupert, a former horse trainer, convinces skeptical Kristin that, perhaps, spiritual intervention there can help Rowan – and themselves. And so, in the summer of 2007, their challenging, inspiring, adventurous quest into the remote, rugged wilderness of high tundra begins.

Produced and narrated by Rupert Isaacson, directed and photographed by Michel Orion Scott and edited by Rita K. Sanders. this documentary integrates perceptive commentary from autism experts like Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen (scholarly cousin of comedian Sasha Baron-Cohen) of Cambridge University, anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker of George Washington University, and Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal behavior at Colorado State University who herself has autism. While theories on autism’s origins abound, there is no consensus in the medical community on either causes or treatment.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Horse Boy” is an inspiring, affirmative 8. Since autism is diagnosed in more children each year than cancer, diabetes, Down syndrome and AIDS combined and it’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, autism cases could reach four million in the next decade, this documentary has extraordinary relevance.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.