In a different key

Poster of "In A Different Key"

“In A Different Key,” a documentary that tells the stories of various people on the autism spectrum, will debut in Arizona at the Sedona International Film Festival on June 15.

Filmmakers Caren Zucker and John Donvan will be on hand for a panel discussion with viewers during the festival.

Zucker has an adult son on the spectrum who lives in First Place-Phoenix, a residential community designed for adults with autism and other neuro-diverse abilities. It is one of the main locations where filming of the documentary took place.

“We are thrilled that ‘In A Different Key’ is getting its Southwest debut in Sedona,” said Zucker, via email. “Because our film aims to show that community is important for people on the spectrum, it’s wonderful that Phoenix, just down the road from Sedona, has proven to be what John Donvan and I call ‘the most autism-friendly city anywhere.’”

Zucker is the co-director and co-producer of the film. She is a journalist and Emmy Award-winning network producer. Donvan, the other co-director and co-producer, is also a veteran network correspondent and producer for ABC, CNN and PBS.

Denise Resnik, founder and president of First Place-Phoenix, said she has followed the work of Zucker and Donovan over the course of two decades. Her organization has assisted their research and even hosted them during the tour of their book, also titled “In A Different Key.”

This story is personal for the Jewish Resnik, whose 30-year-old son is autistic.

“We’re proud the documentary features several Phoenix families and spotlights how more and more people diagnosed with autism are being given a chance to be their best selves early in life and throughout their lives with opportunities to learn, work and live outside their family home — with friends and a community in their corner,” Resnik said, via email.

The documentary follows the story of a mother of an autistic child attempting to find Donald Triplett, the first person diagnosed with autism. She finds him in Mississippi at the age of 87. While the book covered autism’s past using the framework of civil rights, the film examines autism in the present and questions where things might go in the future.

“Starting with its exploration of the exemplary way Triplett’s community has always watched out for and included him, it also reveals how so many others in communities across the country were abused or excluded, owing to lack of research and understanding about autism as well as social forces like racism, stigmatization and poverty,” explains the film’s press release.

It has won the jury award for best documentary at the Oxford Film Festival and the audience prize for best documentary at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

The film also includes an interview with Dr. Daniel Openden, CEO of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center in Phoenix, another local organization highlighted in the documentary. Resnik was one of SARRC’s co-founders. JN