How I Am (Wie Ich Bin)

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Ingrid Demetz, Caroline Leitner, Daniel Mazza

Fanlight Productions
49 minutes. DVD $249.

These words appear on the screen as outstretched hands catch snowflakes: “I’m like a hermit on an island. Alone. I see the wonders of the world and I can’t enjoy them. … So voiceless.”

They are the words of Patrick Wanker, autistic and in his late teens. He speaks little and moves clumsily. Until he learned to type on a computer, communication was difficult. But now, as his mother supports his hand, Patrick jabs a forefinger at the keyboard, and words of unexpected eloquence tumble out: “Sometimes I know exactly what I should do, but my body doesn’t let me. … I always have to depend on somebody else.”

These words and others – superimposed on the screen as he goes about life – give us a tour of how Patrick is. In his high school classroom, Patrick fidgets. “So many stimuli, sounds, lights, voices, but within me they’re confusing. The eyes of people distract me because they want to look through me.”

Patrick lives in South Tyrol, Italy, a mostly German-speaking province that was once part of Austria. In a glorious alpine meadow, Patrick laughs while feeding a horse from his hand. “The horse … accepts me completely, how I am.”

On an athletic field, Patrick drifts as classmates toss a ball. “Very often, I’m being ignored, and that hurts. They find it hard to communicate with me.” He grabs a pretty girl’s hand; she hugs him.

At home, Patrick’s father gently shaves his son’s face. His mother struggles to tug on his boots. With his younger brothers, Patrick knows that “normal” Marco “feels responsibility toward me very strongly. I catch myself envying his independence.” With little brother Luca, also autistic, Patrick clowns and shares nonsense noises. “We understand each other, even if we don’t use words. … I worry about Luca, because he hasn’t found a way to communicate yet. My mother worries about what will happen after we are finished school. Who will look after us?”

Patrick’s parents embrace him tenderly while saying good night. With relish, Patrick repeats two of his rare words: “Gute Nacht!”

Patrick’s wishes? “I would like to be self-reliant, live on my own. … I would like to be able to speak better, … and not always have to justify my peculiar behavior. I would like to have my place in life.”

Patrick’s keen perceptions encompass the world beyond the prison of himself. This beautifully crafted, award-winning film will haunt and enlighten viewers from young teens to adults, sparking far-ranging discussion. What is communication? In what ways are all human beings prisoners within their own bodies and minds? How might we discover others’ consciousness? (800) 937-4113,