Marvels of Media

Mark your calendars — and get your tickets. The 3rd annual Marvels of Media Festival at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Queens, which celebrates work created by media-makers on the autism spectrum, takes place March 28 to March 30, 2024.

The festival includes a selection of 17 new films and one virtual reality project, and offers an opportunity to learn from professional filmmakers on the spectrum through two media workshops, one on puppetry, the other collage animation (see more about them below).

“It’s great that there’s now a conversation in the mainstream media about how autistic people are represented in front of the camera, but we also want the conversation to be about the stories made by autistic people,” says Miranda Lee, museum educator, access educator, and Marvels of Media co-leader at MoMI, of the festival’s radical nature.

What’s especially exciting about this year’s selection, Lee adds, “is the variety. There’s not one way people tell stories and there’s not one way people who are autistic, like me, tell a story. Some [of the films] are about being autistic, some aren’t, there are some media makers who are queer and autistic, and people of color and autistic. The focus is more on the styles and genre.”

Flying Lessons

Flying Lessons

The films include six shorts on opening night that fall under the theme “Unique Romances”; Flying Lessons, a dramatic feature that follows two estranged sisters forced together by their mother’s sudden death (Beatrice, an autistic teenager who wants to learn to fly, and Talia, a queer musician with no interest in teaching her); “Magnificently Awesome Animations,” animated shorts perfect for the whole family, which include the short The Kazuki Toons Babysitting an Egg; Wilmington Escaped, a new VR work by returning artist Carrie Hawks; and Tree’s Blood from Reel Start and Exceptional Minds, an academy and studio dedicated to preparing artists on the autism spectrum for careers in animation and the digital arts.

The festival was founded by media veteran Josh Sapan, former executive vice chair of AMC Networks & a MoMI trustee. Like many who become involved in the world of special needs, Sapan has a family member with autism. His autistic son, who is now 30 and a prolific writer of fan fiction, grew up going to MoMI with his father, where the video games helped him connect with the world.

“Stories were and are very important to him,” says Sapan. “They can be educational and emancipating. For him, for all of us, it connects him to a particular universe. [But we both] liked to go to the museum, it bridged our interests and has an orientation toward neurodiverse people. I would encourage anyone with special needs kids to check it out.”

The Marvels of Media festival expands the museum’s accessibility efforts for autistic visitors through the creation of a sensory-friendly space in the Media Lab and sensory kits, which are available at the front desk. It’s part of the museum’s year-round Marvels of Media initiative, which showcases, celebrates, and supports autistic media-makers of all ages and skill sets. 

Festival Workshops

Puppetry Workshop with WonderSpark Puppets

This workshop invites autistic visitors and media-makers are invited to learn how to perform puppetry on screen. Participants will gain knowledge about TV Puppetry Performance, technique, and learn the skills to become more confident puppeteers in this form. You can bring your TV-style hand and rod puppet puppet, and puppets will also be available for use. 

When: Friday, March 29, 2024
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Ages: Recommended for ages 13+
Where: The museum’s Digital Learning Suite, 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, NY 11106

This will take place at the Museum; space is limited.    

Free with RSVP   

Collage Animation Workshop

Instructed by artist David Karasow, this two-hour media workshop focuses on creating collage art with paper, which is then animated to create a stop-motion animation short (between 10 and 20 seconds). 

When: Saturday, March 30, 2024
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Ages: Recommended for ages 15+
Where: The museum’s Digital Learning Suite, 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, NY 11106

Top image: The Kazuki Toons Babysitting an Egg; photos courtesy of MoMi

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