Nicholas Ryan-Purcell from Cloughjordan has made an honest and emotional film which has been receiving considerable acclaim from the many who have watched it so far.
The film is a documentary and it's called “Nicholas – Living with Autism.” It's been shown at many theatres around the country, the most recent being IMC Cinema in Thurles on Monday night.
This is the second acclaimed documentary which Nicholas has made. In 2016 he released “Against the Odds” which portrayed the life story of the Irish champion race horse Gordon Lord Byron. Against the Odds received awards at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards. In the film Gordon Lord Byron becomes a sort of symbol for what can be achieved despite the difficulties, the ups and downs which life throws at us.
In his latest documentary Nicholas has moved from portraying the difficulties facing a race horse and its owners to the difficulties facing him in his own life.
It's an open, self-revelatory film and like all such films can be very beneficial for its viewers because it shows us that in this theatre called life we all have problems, some bigger than others, but what truly defines us is how we react to those problems.
Nicholas was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2003 and his documentary chronicles his experience of living with Asperger's and autism spectrum disorder. It also touches on depression, which was brought on by the death of a close friend.
“I was a very shy kid,” Nicholas told an interviewer recently. “I was always very shy, didn't come out of my shell until I was about 19 or 20. I only ever mixed with adults until the age of 24 I suppose, mixed with adults because I always felt more comfortable around them. Now I'm getting used to people in my own age group which is great.”
The film also highlights the crucial importance of communities in our lives. In Nicholas' life those communities have been the villages of Emly and Cloughjordan. “People who have watched this,” says the filmmaker, “have all said that the film covers community inclusion, it covers compassion, it covers love for the autistic person, and it covers how people can help you thrive and bring you along."
He also spoke about what drew him to filmmaking. “What I like about the film medium is you can actually visualise everything up on the screen as events unfold. With my Asperger's I'm a visual thinker, so therefore when I was much younger I learnt everything through colour, through Powerpoint slides, through seeing things for real through my own eyes, through photographs.”
The documentary also looks at Nicholas' passion for trains, both steam and mainline passenger. He used to spend hours trainspotting, during which his depression faded into the background and he felt happy.
Nicholas decided to make the film after an experience in Birr Theatre & Arts Centre. Against the Odds was screened in Birr Theatre in October 2016, which Nicholas attended. “When I got up on the stage I was asked by the interviewer, 'What's next?' So I thought for a moment and something came into mind saying 'Do one on your own experience.' Just like that, when I announced it, the whole auditorium stood up with a rousing applause, and I thought, maybe I should do it so, if I get that response. ”
“This is Nicholas” received its worldwide premier in Manhattan in October 2018 at the NYC Mental Health Film Festival.
The film will be shown in the IMC Cinema Tullamore on Wednesday January 16 and in IMC Cinema Athlone on Monday January 21.