The Black Balloon

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 – 7:30pm
Australia 2008. Director: Elissa Down
Cast: Rhys Wakefield, Luke Ford, Toni Collette, Erik Thomson, Gemma Ward

“One of the most genuinely enjoyable films out of Australia in years” (Megan Lehmann, The Hollywood Reporter), The Black Balloon won a sizable six Australian Film Institute Awards, including Best Picture, Direction, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Luke Ford), and Supporting Actress (Toni Collette, terrific as always). Writer-director Elissa Down, who has two autistic brothers, draws on personal experience to tell the affecting tale of Thomas (Rhys Wakefield), a teen increasingly embarrassed by the antics of his severely autistic older brother Charlie (Ford). Thomas and his family have just moved from up north to a new home in Sydney, where Thomas he is starting a new school. All he wants is to fit in. Now, with his mother Maggie (Collette) laid up by advanced pregnancy, Thomas is put in charge of caring for his brother. Oz supermodel Gemma Ward plays Jackie, Thomas’s new girlfriend. The Black Balloon offers an unflinching portrayal of the enormous pressures brought to bear on a family raising a child with a severe disability, but does so with extraordinary heart and humour. “The Black Balloon courses with a firsthand feel for languorous Aussie summers, the shifting scales of love and hate in sibling relationships, and the earned wit that helps families cope with difficult situations” (Village Voice). Colour, 35mm. 97 mins.

Post-screening discussion with Dr. Vikram Dua, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia. Dr. Dua was the primary researcher and writer of the Ministry of Health policy paper Standards and Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Assessment of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is the former Medical Director of the B.C. Autism Assessment and Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions Networks. Dr. Dua’s clinical practice specializes in children and youth with developmental disabilities.

Co-sponsored by ACT – Autism Community Training

Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.


“This unblinking family drama packs a visceral punch. Thomas’ journey toward acceptance is blessedly free of noble lessons and filled with real people.”
Los Angeles Times | full review

“At its sharpest Elissa Down’s feature directorial debut is guided by intense, rough-edged emotional swings that feel authentically alive.”
Chicago Tribune | full review

The Black Balloon establishes this family with a delicate mixture of tenderness and pain.”
Chicago Sun-Times | full review