Refrigerator Mothers is a portrait of seven women who were wrongly villainized by society, yet who found the strength and courage to survive.
The making of this multiple-award winning film began when Producer JJ Hanley’s child was diagnosed with Autism in 1993. While educating herself about the disorder, JJ read a book called The Empty Fortress by world-famous child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. Bettelheim promoted the overreaching Freudian-based theory that emotionally-cold mothers were responsible for causing their children’s autism. Despite a lack of real evidence, the medical establishment bought Bettelheim's "refrigerator mother" theory so completely from the 1950s through the early ‘70s that there was no other narrative by which to understand autism. The impact on families was devastating. Shocked by this history, JJ found her way to Kartemquin Films and to director David E. Simpson. David's earlier documentary, When Billy Broke His Head, co-directed with Billy Golfus, instilled in him an abiding interest in disability rights and concern about malfeasance within the “helping" professions. Together, JJ and David embarked on a three-year span of research and filmmaking to document this untold story, and to help put the final nail in the coffin of mother-blame.
Today, Autism is recognized as a neurological disorder, though its causes are still debated. Beyond dispute is the staggering increase in the number of diagnoses. Viewers will note that a title card near the start of Refrigerator Mothers (released in 2002) states that autism strikes 1 in 500 children. Today, the incidence in the United States of autism spectrum disorder is 1 in 68 (CDC, 2014).
Extras included in this package:
After working on the film Refrigerator Mothers producer JJ Hanley was inspired to create the website JJ's List, which allows people with disabilities to rate and review businesses and services.
Available for Purchase on DVD:
Refrigerator Mothers is available on DVD here.
With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 50 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.
Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Guidestar
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