Keep the Change – a film short that explores autism

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photo credit: Tangerine Entertainment

KEEP THE CHANGE is an exciting film short from the filmmakers at Tangerine Entertainment. The film was written and directed by Rachel Israel, and has won the Columbia University Film Festival’s Focus Features Best Film Award, the Alumni Award, and the Arthur J. Harris Memorial Prize.

The fifteen minute film short revolves around two main characters. David, played by Brandon Polansky, is a 30-year-old ‘upper class charmer’ who is doing his very best to conceal his high functioning autism. At the beginning of the film, his mother persuades him to go to a support group for adults with autism, and it is at the group that he meets Sarah (Samantha Elisofon) who has a language processing disability.

All of the characters within the film are played by actors who are on the autistic spectrum.

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photo credit: Tangerine Entertainment

David enjoys “exclusive clubs” and throughout the film repeatedly expresses that he does not want to appear rigid. This is cleverly shown in a conversation with Sarah while sharing a New York cab. She is telling him about her need of structure and routine, to which he replies that the way she acts is “like that movie Rain Man.”

He also has a rather offensive sense of humour, but I found him hugely likeable. There is just something about him that makes you want to know why he acts the way in which he does and why he wants to hied his autism to such an extent. He is a puzzle.

During the short film David and Sarah are given a team assignment of buying a present for another member of the group. It is through watching their exchanges with each other, that the beauty of this film is revealed. He tries desperately to keep up his playboy image, but Sarah seems to see right through him while at the same time making him question why he acts the way in which he does. Sarah is a bubbly and outgoing young woman and instantly likeable. Although she appears to be a vulnerable young woman I feel that she has an inner strength.

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photo credit: Tangerine Entertainment

I like this film immensely, and do so on many different levels. Firstly it is a poignant story that is well told (just wait until you see the ending). Actors who are on the autistic spectrum have been cast, rather than NT actors, and I feel that this makes the film more ‘real’. It is also incredibly easy to forget that these characters are on the autistic spectrum. While watching I just found two very captivating and enigmatic personalities on screen, and I enjoyed watching how they engaged with each other. For me, autism did not come into the equation.

About the director Rachel Israel

Rachel Israel received her B.F.A. with honors from Rhode Island School of Design, where she attended as a Princess Grace Award Scholar. She then received her M.F.A. in film directing with honors from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has directed numerous short films and was an associate producer on Academy Award winner Geoffrey Fletcher’s film, Violet and Daisy (2013). Film school shorts website http://blogs.kqed.org/filmschoolshorts/filmmakers/rachel-israel/

The entire film short cam be watched below. The film does contain language and content that is adult in nature.

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Film School Shorts website