Film ‘Treasure’ sheds light on how autism affects African-Americans

“Treasure,” a film written and directed by Portland native Kathryn Elise Drexler, premiered in the Portland Film Festival on Oct. 27.

The Los Angeles-based filmmaker and daughter of NBA Hall of Famer and former Portland Trailblazer Clyde Drexler received a MFA in film directing/production from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television.

A quaint “slice of life” story filmed in Hood River, “Treasure” takes a unique look at the challenges facing an African-American family in the 1990s in dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder, an impairing condition where an individual struggles to engage in communication, especially in social situations. “Treasure” tells the story of 13-year old Austin (played by Jesse LaMon) whose determined mother (Deanna Becker) has difficulty understanding and accepting his Autism — even though his peers (Zoe Floyd) and sibling (Elise Drexler) see his social differences.

While autism is a challenge for many families, research shows that African-American children are among the worst-affected largely because of a delay in diagnosis or social stigma. “I have several relatives on the spectrum and I saw this film as a unique opportunity to shed light on Autism Spectrum issues affecting minority communities in general, particularly as the incidence rate of Autism continues to grow.”

When casting the lead, Drexler wanted the film to have as much honesty and impact as possible. “Jesse is on the Spectrum and does an incredible job of depicting on film some of the social and familial challenges an Autistic teen might face.

“I am honored to have this film chosen by the Portland Film Festival and hope that it will resonate not only as a creative work, but also as a work of social advocacy for those with Autism and their allies,” Drexler said.

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“I have extremely fond memories of Hood River dating all the way back to my early childhood, when my mother would drive us over from Portland to visit her sister, Linda, at her house,” Drexler writes. “I was always so excited to go not only because I got to pick her strawberry patch clean, but also because the warmth and beauty that the home and town emanated made it one of my favorite places in the world. A few years back after her kids moved away, Aunt Lynn (Linda Floyd) converted her home to a bed and breakfast. The summer before filming, I visited her after a long time away and was struck again by how truly stunning the area is. I knew I wanted the film to take place in Oregon, but I wanted to find a location that could reflect the gentility and sublime aesthetics of the narrative itself. There was no better place to set our sights.

“Even though filming took place during the historic forest fires last summer, our team powered through to deliver a story that we are truly proud of. Working in conjunction with Westside Elementary and Seven Oaks Bed and Breakfast — as well as some native Hood River citizens who starred as featured extras in the film — we were honored to take part in the town culture and capture its splendor on film.”



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