“When you see the turtle, you see dad. I will always be with you and never forsake you.” Wang Xincheng says these final words to his autistic son before dying. This line is from a scene in the movie Ocean Heaven (海洋天堂), China’s first movie addressing the issue of autism. Jet Li, global megastar and philanthropist, plays the father of a teenager with autism in his first non-action movie in the past thirty years.
Recently, Ms. Chen Jie, the director of Qing Cong Quan Autistic School, invited me to watch the film premier. The story centers on Wang (played by Li), a marine park worker diagnosed with terminal cancer who is desperately looking for a place to take care of his autistic son Da Fu before he dies. The movie touches upon the situation of autism in China and the heavy burden that families often face.