American Emmy-winning director talks autism during film tour in Vietnam

Award-winning director Janet Grillo spent a week conducting exchanges with autism awareness organizations and showcasing her film, “Jack of the Red hearts”, to audiences in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang

American director Janet Grillo talks to Ho Chi Minh City audiences after a screening of “Jack of the Red Hearts” on March 14, 2017.

American Emmy-winning producer and director Janet Grillo is in the central city of Da Nang screening her movie “Jack of the Red Heats” before her return to the U.S on Saturday.

“Jack of the Red Heats” won a Jury Prize for promoting Women and Diversity, the Chimera Award for Gender Equality, and many others.

In addition to film screenings, Grillo spent her week-long visit ending March 18 to Vietnam conducting exchanges with autism awareness organizations and meetings with local filmmakers.

The movie screenings, which also took place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, are part of the American Film Showcase, an initiative from the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, to brings award-winning contemporary American documentaries and independent fiction films to audiences around the world.

On Tuesday, the family-themed movie had Ho Chi Minh City audiences shedding tears with its story of runaway teenager Jack impersonating a trained caregiver and forming a unique bond with 11-year-old autistic girl Glory and her desperate mother Kay.

While many applauded after the film ended, other expressed their gratitude towardsthe director for “making such a great movie”.


Audiences watch "jack of the red Hearts" at the American Center of the U.S. Consulate Gernal in Ho Chi Minh City on March 14, 2017. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi Tre News

"All of us are broken. That’s the nature of humans,” director Grillo told audiences in Ho Chi Minh City.

“When we understand, accept, and love each other, we become stronger, just as Jack while he gradually developed love for Glory and as Glory’s family made Jack better".

The fact that the movie was written by the aunt of an autistic girl and the mother of an autistic son really shine though, and it quickly becomes apparent to audiences that the film has a mother’s touch.

Speaking with Tuoi Tre News, Grillo compared the character Jack to a bridge that helps connect the outside world to those whose lives are affected by autism.


American director Janet Grillo speaks at an interview with Ho Chi Minh City press on March 14, 2017. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi Tre News

The director continued that the story of Glory’s family can be met everywhere – a constantly anxious mother who only want to protect their children, an exhausted father losing faith in their child’s recovery, and an enormous family debt for treatment.

According to Grillo, the most important thing a parent must do is refuse to give up hope.

“There are now more treatments for autistic children than there were 20 years ago when my son was diagnosed," the director shared with Vietnamese parents of autistic children.

"One thing to remember is that it is not your fault that your child is autistic, neither is it your child’s”, she added.

“Learn to accept, understand, love, and do not hesitate to get treatment as soon as possible.

She also repeatedly said that love is the key to raising any child, whether he/she is healthy or sick.

Speaking at Tuesday's film screening, Timothy Liston, Deputy Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, said in Vietnam, the number of children diagnosed with autism is rising sharply.

Meanwhile, autism is not generally well understood by the community and parents do not have ready access to autism related information.

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