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OKAY! (The ASD Band Film)
by Karen Pecota

CANADA | 2022 Director: Mark Bone Written by: Greg Rosati & Andrew Simon

The Slamdance Film Festival's newest category UNSTOPPABLE is now in its third year showcasing some of the most enjoyable films ever presented made by those in the disability community. The criterion to present in the festival’s UNSTOPPABLE program is that films are made by filmmakers with visible and non-visible disabilities. Slamdance Co-Founder Peter Baxter says, "Programmed exclusively by disabled artists, Slamdance Unstoppable aims to eliminate the prejudices and gate-keeping that have historically kept disabled filmmakers from being represented in the entertainment industry."

Filmmaker Mark Bone documents how a Toronto-based band of musicians who all have some form of disability on the Autism spectrum in OKAY! (THE ASD BAND). The abbreviation ASD refers to Autistic Syndrome Disability. In order to be in the Canadian Band, one acknowledges they are to some degree Autistic. The band members are Jackson D. Begley, Rawan Tufaha, Ron Adea, Spenser Murray, and Maury LaFoy. Each long to be popular and accepted for their musical talents. They trust and hope to avoid being teased because of their disability, as so often each have experienced.

Bone shares the story of how these young adults beat the odds and attain success in the music world in spite of disabilities. Bone introduces the band members and follows them while in production of their first album and prepare for their first live concert. Interviews with band members, family and friends give insight to the support necessary for the dream of such a band to foster.

Two of the members write all the songs they perform and say, "When making music, if you are being creative, you can be as weird as you want." This space of weirdness gives the band the confidence they need to pursue their music and present it to the world.

The band's first gig was January 27, 2022, located in a historic opera house. Bone features how the combinations of kindred spirits, who all speak the same language, have an opportunity of a lifetime. Bone says, "Four brilliant minds that can work together along with their disabilities is a message to the community they identify with, as well as in the community where they live."

Bone incorporates as special message from the parents of each band member, as they willingly encouragement others, "Never give up hope that your child, if they land on the autistic spectrum, can develop and follow their dream."