The Red Carpet: Documentary about an autistic filmmaker

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Axel Brauns is a well-known, highly-regarded novelist and film director in his native country of Germany. He is also autistic, so by nature he has great difficulty understanding people’s emotions, facial expressions, and social customs. The Red Carpet (Der Teppich Roche) is a full-length documentary by Eric and Andrea Asch about Braun’s creative process, his autism, his opinions, and his life.

What is perhaps most surprising about The Red Carpet is how entertaining and humorous Axel Brauns is. At 44, Brauns exhibits a curiosity and child-like exuberance rarely present in adults. He delights in making noises and hiding in small spaces.

Read on! Video clips at the end.
Like many on the autistic spectrum, he is highly interested and talented in studying what many would consider rote information: In Braun’s case, it is a reference book about German racing horse statistics and genetic information.

The joy that German Harness Racing Studs brought Brauns is what inspired him to write books of his own. “My dream was to write a book that pleased other people as much as this book pleased me,” he tells the camera. Brauns realised, however, that most people are interested in stories and emotions, not horse racing. Although he didn’t speak or even see faces as a small child, as an adult, Brauns doggedly taught himself facial expression, speech patterns, and even comic timing by watching films and reading books. His persistence paid off. In some year, he one some award and in another year he earned another award.

Axel Brauns came to his knowledge of autism late in life, at age 29. Upon reading a book by Dawn-Prince Hughes, an autistic woman, he recognized the traits in himself and finally understood his differences. As a child and teenager, Brauns thought he was the normal, competent one and that everyone else he encountered were stupid and strange. Axel Brauns’ optimism and self-confidence is refreshing.

Aside from Braun’s fascinating life story and accomplishments, what makes The Red Carpet so compelling is that it lets an autistic individual tell his story from the inside, rather than having the directors impose their idea of what autism is on the film. It is beautifully shot and edited. The Aschs and their team have given the public a much-needed, insightful, and entertaining view on autism, creativity, and the power of the individual.

The U.S. premiere of Eric and Andrea Asch’s biopic of Axel Brauns took place Thursday June 14, 2007 at the American Film Institute theater’s Silverdocs Festival near Washington, DC. I was among a small handful of people on the spectrum lucky enough to attend the premiere and have coffee with Eric Asch after the film. Something I was surprised to learn is that Eric knew very little about autism before beginning the project; this fact presented itself in great contrast to his present knowledge, and to the compassion and respect he demonstrated towards those of us on the spectrum.

We will keep our readers posted on DVD release of the film.

By Katie Miller

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