US release - "The Black Balloon"!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Aug 5, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We have one of the cast members' mothers keeping tabs on the film's progress. She just emailed us with thw following link:


    She added the message to our kids - "You guys are now international stars!"

    To update - the film is a really good, award-winning feature film starring Toni Collette, Gemma Ward (teen supermodel turned darn good actress), Rhys Wakefield (Aussie soap star and impossibly good-looking hunk) and as Charlie, Luke Ford (also impossibly good-looking, about to star as the now-adult Alex in "Mummy III").

    The film is about Thomas's struggle with moving to another new town (Dad is in the army) and coping with new school, liking a girl - and having a profoundly autistic teenage brother, Charlie. He tries to keep quiet about any connection with Charlie but when his pregnant mother has to take things easy, Thomas has to take on a bigger role as carer.

    It's NOT "Gilbert Grape" in any way. It deals with the emotions of it all, the discrimination, the judgementss of other people but it's not bleak. Just when you think it's getting too heavy to take, something lightens it and you find yourself caught up in those "moments" we all have as parents of difficult children, when you say to yourself, "nobody would believe this - but it's funny."

    Luke and Rhys went out in public in character, which was challenging for Luke especially. He reported how horrified he was at the discrimination they experienced as well as the times a group of young boys especially would deliiberately try to stir him up to trigger a meltdown, in someone who clearly needed compassion and not torment. And this was just the research!

    Where do our kids come in? A pivotal scene towards the end of the film (it's referred to in the beginning and it builds towards this through the film) is a musical production of Noah's Ark by Charlie's autism school. To make this segment, a call went out in Sydney via the autism associations and disability support groups for autistic teens and their siblings, aged 13-24. difficult child 3's local drama group were on the email list and when I rang the contact (Claire - she turned out to be the segment producer, choreographer and also in the film) I mentioned easy child 2/difficult child 2's circus skills as stiltwalker and how it could come in handy as a giraffe.
    So we turned up to the audition, dragging along our entire reason/alibi - our autistic difficult child 3. He was so reluctant that when we finally met Claire, difficult child 3 announced, "I don't want to do this. I don't want to be in it."
    Normally that doesn't go down too well at an audition!
    So Claire3 talked to the other two (easy child 2/difficult child 2 and difficult child 1) and they WERE keen. The giraffe - we had to find another stiltwalker somewhere but they were going ahead on the off-chance (they did find one later). difficult child 1 got to choose his favourite animal - a bird. His favourite bird, the Aussie Wedge-Tailed Eagle, was not an option (too scary) but they gave him Rainbow Lorikeet (difficult child 1 calls them "crazy birds").
    Claire talked to all the kids about what sort of character each animal was. Koalas were stoners, for example. Giraffes are the lookouts, the curious ones. And the lorikeets - the soccer hooligans, the thugs of the bird world.

    The kids rehearsed for three months for what we originally believed to be a zero-budget student film. The cast of the Noah's Ark "Afloat!" segment were all autistic kids and siblings, all mixed together. We already knew most of them, a few other faces were there too (including Luke, Rhys occasionally and Fidrass, plus a couple of girls - these were all "main cast"). Our kids mingled with everyone. We all thought Luke and Fidrass really were autistic and wondered how they would cope since they seemed quite severely so. But during breaks when the kids chatted, they clearly seemed together and 'normal'. And of course, Luke and Fidrass WERE acting. Just darned good at it.

    And difficult child 3, who kept saying, "I don't want to do it. I won't dress as an animal. I hate dressing up." He was cast as Noah, the ultimate wildlife warrior. And on the day of filming - he was spot on with his timing and lines. He had to begin the scene which meant he was up on the stage, alone, waiting for the cue each time. Take after take. Toni Collette personally congratulated him afterwards for being so professional and not making a single mistake in a morning full of takes.

    We've been told the DVD will have "Making of 'Afloat!'" in the Special Features. The kids were filmed during rehearsals, costume fittings etc. Some parents were also interviewed. I wasn't, I was happy to stay in the background.

    Our three kids were also in the dress rehearsal segment about halfway through the film, but it's mostly a background shot. difficult child 3 was the smallest and youngest at time of shooting. He's grown a lot since then - the director Elissa commented when she saw us at the preview.

    Elissa not only directed, she wrote the script. It's based on her own experiences growing up an army brat with two autistic brothers. The segment where Thomas is chasing Charlie down the street, both boys in underpants, was something that really happened to her with her brother. I'm not giving anything away - that scene is in the preview which has been released online.

    We met Elissa's brother (on whom Charlie is based) and also her mother.

    It's a fabulous film. A great film for teens (whether or not they have to deal with disability). A marvellous, uplifting but earthy film for those with disabled or difficult kids. Teachers, health professionals - it will give them a dose of what real life is like for families. It shows people making mistakes as well as getting it right.

    There was a local screening (nothing to do with our local kids being involved, the screening organisers didn't know) and I took psychiatrist and psychiatrist's daughter. At 9, the little girl did find some of the violence (fights between the brothers) a bit confronting, but she was OK with it. As I said, it is real. And despite the positive ending, psychiatrist had tears pouring down her face when the lights came up. It's not sad - but it IS emotional at times, perhaps because it is so real.

    I would be recommending this film anyway. I think Luke should be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Charlie (as long as he's not competing with Heath Ledger).

    But three of my kids are also in the film, with screen credits.

    So watch for it.

  2. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! If I ask nicely, would your kids send me their autographs?

    I'll definately be watching for this. If I see it in my area I'll let you know so you can refresh my memory on which kids are yours.
  3. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    It sounds amazing. I can't wait to see it.
  4. WhymeMom?

    WhymeMom? No real answers to life..

    Thanks for updating us, will watch for release in my area......What a great experience for your kids......totally cool......
  5. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    How exciting! I hope it comes to the L.A. area -- I'd LOVE to see it and I'd bet the kids would benefit from a film like this.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's very much a easy child teens film, too. There is a fair bit of swearing in it, plus it's very Australian in style and culture. Example from the beginning - kids watching Thomas's family moving in, Charlie is sitting on the ground banging a stick on thre path and making a noise to 'accompany' the sounds he is making. Small kid on bike watching says, "Why is your brother a spastic?"
    Thomas says, "He's not spastic, he's autistic."
    Kid on bike, rolling eyes: "Same diff..."
    Thomas: "It's not, actually."
    Mother (Toni Collette) putting on false bright smile: "Hello, boys. Do you live round here?" [bright smile briefly slips; she picks up a cricket bat and swings it up to her shoulder].

    Not quite menacing, but you can almost feel her fingers twitch, wanting to slam that bat down and knock some sense into the kid on the bike.

    A lot of four-letter words (which is what mostly constitutes swearing in Australia) and a lot of other words, commonly used here which could also be seen as offensive in the US.
    But the scenes with the girlfriend are gorgeous - none of the usual contrived teen conflict there, the girl has more compassion than the brother. She defuses some interesting scenes.

    It will definitely stimulate conversation.

    But one really important point in the whole film, the message - Thomas and his father are in the car coming home, Charlie is in the back looking at the traffic lights against the wet, dark road of the night drive. Thomas says to his father, "Dad, do you ever wish Charlie was normal?"

    Dad: "Charlie is Charlie. He is how he is. I might wonder sometimes, but wondering doesn't change anything. All I know is, he's my own. And you're weak as p*** if you don't look after your own."

    Thomas is fifteen, nearly sixteen. At sixteen we are finally allowed to get a Learner's permit and learn to drive. That is a relevant point to the story, as it is part of Thomas growing up in other ways and learning the responsibility that comes with it all.

    I'll keep you all posted as we get news.

    by the way - it mightn't be easy to spot all of our kids - easy child 2/difficult child 2 is one of the two giraffes, difficult child 1 is one of the two rainbow lorikeets (dark-haired with a slight moustache, no glasses). But difficult child 3 is unmistakeable - he is wearing glasses, has dark hair in a Beatle mop and is wearing a khaki shirt and shorts. He begins the stage scene with his lines as Noah. And they're the only three kids in the stage sequence with the same surname. They lead off the credits for that section.

    It was bizarre hearing difficult child 3 say that line - he was smaller and younger when they filmed, and now his voice has broken. I barely recognised his voice!

  7. mrscatinthehat

    mrscatinthehat Seussical

    I keep watching for it on netflix. It isn't listed as a potential movie yet but I keep watching for it.

  8. fuddleduddledee

    fuddleduddledee New Member

    :secret:I admit it, I go to websites where I can watch movies and download movies for free. Okay, I'm an internet thief, and I am freely admitting it here and now. :sorry:I can't really afford to go to the movies and nothing beats the comfort of my own home to watch a movie. I have seen so many first run movies in the last few months that I never would have been able to see.

    Funny, you should mention this movie today, I downloaded it this morning to watch later today. It's about autism which always spikes my interest since difficult child is Aspergers, so now I'm going to set aside some time to watch it this evening.
  9. Marg's Man

    Marg's Man Member

    I'll be curious to see what you think of it.

    I have sometimes wondered if the film might not be too Australian for overseas audiences. Having said that, it ddi do very well at its World Premiere in Germany and at showings in other parts of Europe.

    I freely admit I am biased because my kids are in it, AND I am Australian.

    Let us know your impressions. Dare I ask for a review?

    Marg's Man
  10. fuddleduddledee

    fuddleduddledee New Member


    I stayed up a little past my bedtime to finish watching this movie tonight. It was a very good film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd recommend it to anyone.

    BRAVO :bravo::bravo:
  11. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I can't wait to see it!
  12. ML

    ML Guest

    This sounds fantastic! How exciting Marg, I can't wait to see it.