When I Saw You #Autism movie via @PhilistineFilms #WhenISawYou


I was unaware this 2013 Palestinian film had an autism theme – nothing I read in any reviews made any mention of it and the clips I had seen hadn’t suggested it either.

I don’t know if autism was an intentional feature of this film, but it jumped out at me right from the start of the film.


A Special Child

It is 1967 and 11 year old Tarek, the Protagonist, is living in a refugee camp in Jordan with his mother, just across the border with Palestine.

Tarek’s love of information and numbers is immediately apparent – but he is having problems at school.

He is very good with mental arithmetic and corrects his teacher….and is then expelled.

Tarek’s Mother explains to the teacher that he is smarter than the other children – the teacher reminds her that Tarek cannot read.

I had flashbacks to my school days, similarly gifted in math, while my English comprehension was ‘nil’ although in my case I was able to read.

Tarek also speaks his mind, unfiltered, to children, his teacher, other adults as well as his mother.

He clearly isn’t doing this to be rude or offensive, he is simply demonstrating a core trait of autism, faithfulness to the truth, with no awareness, let alone regard, for the social impact and consequences.


Details, always the details

Later in the film, we see Tarek at a Freedom Fighters camp.

He was on his way home (back to Palestine), in the direction of where the sun sets.

He carries a stick with him and uses its shadow as a compass and is found sleeping in the desert by one of the Freedom Fighters.

It is at the training camp that we see the full power of Tarek’s powers of observation and remarkable working memory.

In one scene, Tarek is standing next to the Camp Commander, while the trainees are doing push ups and sit ups.

There are maybe 15 trainees and when they finish Tarek casually informs the Commander that all of the men completed 100 repetitions except one – who only did 97.

I have a very good eye for detail, but the brain power necessary to keep count of 15 people at once is at the level of a Grand Chess Master! Way beyond my league and probably outside of my solar system.

We are shown more examples of this.

Later we see Tarek playing cards with those same men and winning.

He speaks his mind with the Freedom Fighters too, with not even a flicker of caution, let alone fear.


The Story

The other story in this wonderful film is that of the Palestinian Freedom Fighters who, like Tarek, just want to go home.

This was a very thoughtful, contemplative and well balanced film – the Camp Commander and the other main Freedom Fighter character are philosophical – they display no hatred or anger, one in particular, the one who befriends Tarek, has a gentle character and is softly spoken.

Palestine has produced some outstanding works of cinema in the last 12 years, including Oscar nominated:

  • ‘Paradise Now’ (2005)
  • ‘5 Broken Cameras (Documentary, 2011)

Palestinian film maker Elia Suleiman @SuleimanElia has made 2 Surreal films – ‘Divine Intervention’ and ‘The Time that Remains’ that I would recommend to anyone who likes to engage their intellect when watching movies.



Palestine has been high on my list for my next #WorldAutismProject post for some time.

I don’t believe in coincidences and so my next post – which will be my 100th post will be, fittingly, ‘Autism in Palestine.’


When I Saw You – Official trailer


This is an outstanding film, both as an historical representation of the 2nd wave of Palestinian refugees, but also for it’s portrayal of one little boy and his experience of ‘Autism in Palestine’


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