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  • Isabel Oldman

Prestwich: Filmmaker's short film highlights autism experience

Xander Ross, 21, from Prestwich, was inspired to make his short new film, Secret Identity, by his own experience of having autism as well as a life-long passion for comic book films.

Secret Identity tells the story of Adam Stein, played by Rio Paz Memfy, a nine-year-old boy obsessed with fictional hero Captain Justice who suddenly manifests super powers of his own.

Adam also has autism and film depicts the process that he and his family go through following his diagnosis.

Xander made the film as part of his studies at Futureworks Manchester and hopes the production will highlight the experiences of neurodiverse people, whom he feels are often underrepresented in cinema.

He said: “Hopefully (the film) will be enough to help some people to show it’s not just them going through these processes.

“One of the big things that we had when we developed the film was that we didn’t want to do the stereotypical narrative. We based the powers that this person has on how Autism works.”

Xander says the isolation often felt by neurodiverse people can be effectively portrayed through the superhero genre, as many of these stories feature characters who feel they do not fit in.

He added: “All kids watch superhero movies and they can identify with the alienation that the superhero is going through.

“(Adam) is identifying with this character that is always seen as this alien who doesn’t fit in.”

As well as identifying with superhero films as an Autistic person,

Xander also views his favourite superhero films through a Jewish lens. “It was a general frustration with the lack of Jewish representation in the superhero genre, he said. "Jewish creators were the one’s who pioneered comic books.”

Xander, who attended Bury and Whitefield Jewish Primary School, said adjustments made for him as a pupil helped pave the way for his career in film.

During school productions he was given roles which included him, even when he didn’t feel comfortable enough to get on stage.

“(They said) we’ll make you your own area and you can control all the music, so that sparked that interested,” he said.

While at sixth form jointly at Rossendale School and Bury College, an encouraging teacher helped him realise he could make his passion into a career.

Having completed his film, he now intends to submit the project to national film festivals including the UK Jewish Film Festival, the Royal Television Society Student Awards and the Student Academy Awards.

Xander added: “I think that their best, superhero movies can highlight a lot of issues that are not being tackles otherwise and shine a light on underrepresented communities."

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