“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.