Jarell Sullivan is an ordinary teenager. He loves music, and is probably viewed as quirky by unfamiliar onlookers. Jarell says that music has colors. He coordinates his body movements to those colors in order to express himself. JMAXX and the Universal Language (by Ryan Mayers) shows that although vocal and verbal language exist, body movement is another form of communication.

Jarell has autism. He says he loves meeting new people but they “scare the crap out of him”. He’s worried they’ll judge him. And unfortunately, many do. But this kid loves dancing so much that he keeps on moving. Not all people can connect with others vocally. In Jarell’s case, he breaks through by using musical communication translated into gestures and poses. It seems a perfect match for hip-hop dance.


Another short featured at ReelAbilities, Act Natural (by Luca Fox), also focuses on an autistic central character. In only 4 minutes of footage, the point is made. Social navigation for someone on the autistic spectrum does not necessarily function the way non-autistic people might imagine. The very insightful 4 minutes expresses what the person viewed as ‘socially inept’ goes through. A party. Several people speaking all at once. Different volumes, different voices. The autistic person is there physically, but trying so hard to connect mentally and verbally, that outsiders don’t see the struggle. They might label him as weird, slow, stupid, awkward, uninterested, or having his mind elsewhere.

A cute short that is more lighthearted than it may sound!


JMAXX and the Universal Language – 10AM and 1PM, May 28th – Innis Town Hall, Toronto.

Act Natural – 10AM, May 29th and 7PM, May 30th– Innis Town Hall, Toronto.