Director John Asher’s film festival hit “Po”, starring Christopher Gorham and newcomer Julian Feder, tells of a recently widowed man who must learn to cope with becoming a single father to his 10-year old autistic son. Po will screen at the Golden Door International Film Festival in New Jersey on September 24.
Based on a true story, ‘Po’ is about David Wilson (Gorham), a single dad with the sole responsibility of caring for his sixth grade son with autism after his young wife falls victim to cancer. Patrick, who prefers to be called Po (Feder), is a gifted but challenged child who is unable to communicate his own sense of loss. As father and son struggle to deal with life after Mom, they each begin to withdraw into their own worlds. David is overwhelmed by a high pressure job he is close to losing, while Po escapes being bullied and other tough moments by drifting into his magical fantasy world where he is just a typical carefree boy with a rich cast of other worldly companions. The growing divide between father and son and the mounting challenges of single parenthood of a special needs child threaten to separate David and Po permanently. Amy (Doubleday), Po’s caring therapist, plays a critical role in keeping the family together where the bonds of love are tested in the most real way.
“Po” is a story close to Asher’s heart, as his son has autism, and the filmmaker hopes the movie will bring a greater understanding and recognition of autism to the world.
In a recent interview with The Mighty, Asher said the film needed someone to captain it who was experienced with the subject. He was just one of those involved very familiar with autism.
“You shouldn’t be making the film unless you have some sort of first-hand experience about what the story is about,” Asher says.
The sons of screenwriter Colin Goldman, actor Gorham and the daughter of composer Burt Bacharach are also on the spectrum.
“Every piece of dialogue that Po had and every movement that he did was thought out and deliberated on,” Asher said. “We really didn’t want it to feel forced, and we didn’t want to do things we’ve never seen an autistic child do before. We wanted to stay true so people who are not affected by autism can learn something from watching this film.”
Asher, whose previous credits include the comedy ‘’Diamonds’’ starring Dan Ayrkoyd and Lauren Bacall and ‘’Dirty Love’’ starring Jenny McCarthy, is the son of famed TV legend William Asher, the original director of legendary sitcom ‘’I Love Lucy’’ and creator of ‘’Bewitched’’.
“Po” is as educational as it is entertaining. “The movie is, for me, about teaching acceptance and about love — that love supersedes everything”, the filmmaker said. “But on top of that, it’s to educate people who aren’t aware of what parents and what children of autism go through on a daily basis.”