Sundance Report #7 – Over the Hills And Far Away


Just got out of the world premier of “Over the Hills and Far Away.” This documentary follows a family’s journey as they travel halfway across the world in search of a miracle to heal their autistic son. The father is a British
journalist and human-rights activist. The mother a psychology professor from suburban California. A perfect life begins to unravel when their son is diagnosed with autism at age three. They try conventional therapies, diets, and medication, all without luck. The father feels that traditional healing is the only route remaining and, seeing a special bond that his son has developed with horses, seeks to find a place where shamanic healing and horseback riding can be combined. That place, it turns out, is Mongolia. And so, they set off on a month-long journey to Ulaanbaatar and travel on horseback searching for reindeer herders and the most powerful shaman in the country.

Directed by Michel Orion Scott, it’s an amazingly spiritual film that finds you questioning your own relationships and personal journey. And I know you’re asking this: does the journey “cure” Rowan’s autism? In many ways, yes. Miracles occur and Rowan finds a new footing. But, as his father is quick to point out in the film, the autism itself is still very much there. That hasn’t changed. What did change is the physical and psychological manefestations of the autism that were keeping Rowan from leading a “normal” life. Gone are the tantrums. Gone is the propensity for Rowan to completely pull into himself and escape from physical and emotional human contact. Was he healed by the shaman or merely the Mongolian journey itself? Difficult to say.

I’m not certain if this film has been picked up or not, but it’s straight up the alley of HBO. I sincerely hope that this film finds a larger audience because it’s honestly one of the best documentaries I’ve seen.

During a quite emotional Q&A following the screening, the film’s director along with both of Rowan’s parents spoke further on their amazing journey and how their views toward autism have changed over the course of their time with Rowan. Pretty amazing stuff.

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“Over the Hills and Far Away” was preceeded by a screening of the short film “The Kinda Sutra,” directed by Oscar-winner Jessica Yu. It’s a comic mixture of animation and live-action interviews that digest the crazy stories we’re fed as children about where babies come from. Very well done.

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