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Australia, 1994 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Manuela Alberti

Born in 1917, Lyndall Hendnkson's life has been one of extremities, from childhood violin prodigy to fame and wealth, to polio, paralysis and poverty. She has received worldwide acclaim for her unorthodox methods for teaching music, and achieved remarkable success both with very gifted children as well as those with severe autism.

The film focuses on Lyndall's current work with the ten year old Patrick Farley. Patrick had been put in the 'no hope' category by the experts. Autistic, retarded and unable to speak, he showed little musical ability.

Using archival footage that begins with their first piano lesson, we witness the growing bond between Patrick and Lyndall and the extraordinary transition from a child unable to make contact with the world, to a small boy who speaks in sentences and plays duets with his teacher. Lyndall's controversial teaching techniques are revealed. Often conducting lessons on the beach, Lyndall immerses her pupils in a total exploration of nature and of their senses. Sometimes, with her autistic students, she will imitate their actions until their behaviour changes, becoming, as she says, "an autistic myself". Extraordinarily energetic and wildly passionate about her endeavours, Lyndall is a demanding woman who has used music to inspire the gifted and pierce the isolated world of the autistic.

The film reveals one woman's dynamic exploration of life and presents two parallel tales of metamorphoses: a prodigy overcoming polio to become a teacher and an autistic boy blossoming with the aid of music.

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