Press Release for Vermont Public Television premiere
“Banishes the myths about autism and reveals its global face.” – Parade
“An eye-opening and most entertaining doc… nearly perfect” – The Hollywood Reporter
“Autism finds its voice.” – Newsweek
“Ingenious documentary about real autistics” – Wall Street Journal
WRETCHES & JABBERERS
GLOBAL STORY WITH VERMONT ROOTS AIRDATE: VERMONT PBS THURSDAY, APRIL 4TH AT 7PM
ROADTRIP FILM SHEDS PERSONAL LIGHT ON THE GLOBAL FACE OF AUTISM
On Thursday April 4, 2019 at 7:00pm Vermont PBS will host the premiere broadcast of the feature documentary Wretches & Jabberers. This inspiring documentary chronicles the world travels of Vermont disability rights advocates, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, in a bold quest to change attitudes about the intelligence and abilities of people with autism. The film is produced by Douglas Biklen with producer and director Academy Award® filmmaker, Gerardine Wurzburg.
Additional airtimes will be 04/07/19, 2:00 pm Vermont PBS, 04/08/19, 9:00 pm Vermont PBS Plus, 04/16/19, 9:30 pm Vermont PBS Plus, 04/26/19, 8:00 pm Vermont PBS Plus. The show will be available to stream at Made Here https://www.vermontpbs.org/madehere/ page starting on the same day as the premiere.
“Our goal was to shine a light on autism internationally. Larry and Tracy’s journey allowed us to portray the global face of autism through the personal stories of six men and women throughout the world,” explains Wurzburg. The result is a provocative mixture of advocacy, personal portrait and travel adventure film – seasoned with liberal doses of humor that has engaged movie audiences worldwide.
Until the 1980s, most children and young adults with autism in the US were excluded from normal schooling. Some were placed in mental institutions. Like many children with autism, Tracy and Larry grew up unable to speak. They faced a future of social isolation in adult disability centers. When Tracy was 23 and Larry 34, their lives changed when they learned to communicate by typing. Larry notes, “nothing I did convinced people I had an inner life until I started typing.”
In the film, Tracy and Larry take to the road to promote awareness of the hidden intelligence in those who face speech and communication challenges, connecting with others like them across the globe who struggle to find a means of expression. Tracy, Larry and their support team, Harvey Lavoy and Pascal Cheng, visit Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland, giving interviews and presentations and learning about the lives of people with autism in these countries. Viewers share in their eye-opening experiences as the men negotiate the terrain of travel, culture and new friendships on what they aptly named The World Intelligence Magnified Tour.
Throughout the film, Tracy, Larry and their compatriots inspire parents, educators and others with autism through their poignant narratives of personal struggle that always ring with intelligence, humor, hope and courage. Of his experience working on the film, Tracy reflects, “It has had a cathartic learning explosive effect on my life with good movement of ideas, thoughts and feelings. I was feeling less autistic and felt I had purpose in life.” Larry adds, “I get proud thoughts thinking Tracy and I can fasten our perspectives on the public’s consciousness.”
About Larry & Tracy: Vermont Locals, Worldwide Advocates
Larry Bissonnette, Artist and Advocate
Larry Bissonnette is a disability rights advocate and artist who lives in Williston, Vermont. He has been painting and drawing since he was a young child and exhibits his art regularly both locally and nationally. His work has
been featured at the Amy Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont in a solo exhibition in 2015 entitled, “Looking Out: The Self-Taught Art of Larry Bissonnette”, a 2016 group exhibition “Amazing GRACE (Grassroots Arts and Community Effort) – Celebrating 40 Years of Artmaking” and in a 2017 group exhibition at Lesley University entitled “3 Artists Celebrating Autism”. In the 2016 South End Art Hop, he was awarded second prize in the juried artist show.
In 1991, Larry learned to communicate through typing and began combining words with his art to express his thoughts and ideas. Over the past 20 years, he has been a featured presenter at many national educational conferences and has written and spoken on the topics of autism, communication and art. He is also both the subject and writer of an award-winning film about his art and life, called, “My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonnette” (2005).
Larry receives support services from Howard Center, located in Burlington, VT. Howard Center offers mental health, substance use, and developmental services across the lifespan. The agency’s 1,600 staff provide help in over 60 locations, primarily in Chittenden County. More than 16,000 clients and community members received support from Howard Center last year.
Since 1991, Pascal Cheng has assisted Larry Bissonnette in his writings and presentations about art and disability issues. Pascal has a M.Ed. and a C.A.S. in Special Education from the University of Vermont. He has worked in the fields of education and human services for over 35 years as a special education teacher, coordinator of educational and vocational programs for adults with developmental disabilities and consultant for individuals with complex communication needs. He is currently an educational and communication specialist for the Howard Center in Burlington, VT, providing training and technical assistance for communication and literacy in both school and community settings. He serves as a member of the VT Communication Task Force, a group that works to improve communication supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities in the state of VT. He also serves as a member of the VT Autism Task Force and board member for the Autism National Committee.
Tracy Thresher, Advocate
Tracy Thresher is an advocate for people with disabilities. Tracy began typing to communicate in 1990 and was one of the first individuals with Autism at Washington County Mental Health Services (a community-based service provider) to be introduced to it. He has presented at local, statewide, and national workshops and conferences. He has consulted with local schools, is a member of the Vermont Statewide Communication Task Force and has worked for the Green Mountain Self-Advocates in Montpelier, VT. In VT, he mentors teenagers and adults. Tracy has worked at Syracuse University as a lead trainer and is now recognized as a Master Trainer.
Tracy’s support services are provided by Community Developmental Resources, a division of Washington County Mental Health Services based in Barre, VT. For over 50 years, Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS) has worked to serve the community through education, support, and treatment of individuals who live with mental health challenges, substance use issues, or developmental/intellectual disabilities. The mission of WCMHS is to advocate for the inclusion of all persons into our community and actively encourage Self- Determination, Resilience and Recovery.
Tracy now works as a peer mentor with the Communication Training & Resources, a program within Community Developmental Services of WCMHS. This program works to ensure that individuals with complex communication needs are able to communicate in their method of choice and have the support, training, and technology to: be fully included, gain respect of others, demonstrate competence, educate others of their communication competency, develop independence, have quality of life, and find purpose in life.
Harvey Lavoy, III
Harvey F. Lavoy, III has assisted Tracy Thresher in his advocacy work since 1995. Harvey has worked for Community Developmental Services (CDS), a division of Washington County Mental Health Services since 1994. He has a B.S. in Special Education and has worked in the field of Human Services for over 40 years. He is currently the Director of Communication Training and Resources at CDS and provides education, training and technical assistance to adults and children with complex communication needs as well as their families, support staff, educational teams, schools and agencies. He has been a member of the VT Statewide Communication Task Force since 2000 providing statewide trainings, workshops, and conferences to enable adults in VT with developmental disabilities to communicate, make social connections and participate in community life more fully.
Gerardine Wurzburg, Producer and Director of Wretches & Jabberers. She received the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short Subject for her HBO film, Educating Peter. For HBO, she also produced the feature documentary, Graduating Peter. Her film Autism is a World was nominated for an Academy Award®. It was broadcast worldwide on CNN She received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Syracuse University. She was a Rockefeller Bellagio Artist in Residence, and at Princeton University the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow.
Douglas Biklen, Producer of Wretches & Jabberers, is the former Dean of the School of Education and founder of the Inclusion Institutes at Syracuse University. He is a resident of Orwell, Vt. He is also the author of “Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone” (NYU Press, 2005). He previously collaborated with Gerardine Wurzburg as the co-producer on Autism is a World and served as an advisor on Wurzburg’s films Educating Peter and Graduating Peter.
Wretches & Jabberers features original music by composer J. Ralph (The Cove, Man on Wire) with a soundtrack featuring original songs written and produced by J. Ralph in collaboration with Antony, Devendra Banhart, Paul Brady, Bonnie Bramlett, Vashti Bunyan, Martin Carthy, Judy Collins, Lila Downs, Vincent Gallo, David Garza, Ben Harper, Scarlett Johannson, Nic Jones, Norah Jones, Leah Siegel, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills, Ben Taylor and Bob Weir. The Wretches & Jabberers album is available on iTunes. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wretches-jabberers-soundtrack/id413744014
Film Festivals Selections: Official Selection of the EOP! Film Festival, (Brussels, Belgium 2015), ABILITYFEST 2015, India International Disability Film Festival (Chennai, India 2015); Casa Comal – XVIII Festival (Guatemala 2015); Outsider Film Festival (Melbourne, Australia 2014); Thessaloniski,Documentary Film Festival (Greece), San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Vermont International Film Festival Opening Night, Sprout Film Festival, Syracuse International Film Festival, Perspektiva VI Moscow Disability Film Festival, Tampa Film Festival, NYC Disabilities Film Festival, JCC Film Festival NYC, Sprout Film Festival NYC, V Disability Film Festival,: and among others. The film has received numerous awards.
The film is a production of State of the Art, an Academy Award®-winning communications company that creates programs, materials and campaigns in education and health that make the leap between good ideas and change. www.stateart.com
Web Site: www.wretchesandjabberers.org
Buy the DVD on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wretches-Jabberers-Larry- Bissonnette/dp/B00FRM5R2W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457444081&sr=8- 1&keywords=wretches+%26+jabberers
Gerardine Wurzburg, is interviewed on NPR radio and shares her thoughts on the making of Wretches & jabberers and her work in examining societal attitudes and perceptions about disability through the medium of film.
International Extraordinary Film Festival, Belgium
Tracy and Larry’s with Director Gerry Wurzburg at post-film Q & A for the International Extraordinary Film Festival in Belgium Nov. 2015:
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