The French approach to autism was discussed a couple of months ago, too.
A controversial new film by French documentary filmmaker Sophie Robert, screened last week at an autism conference here in Philadelphia, reminds the world that in France these thoroughly discredited and dangerous ideas still hold considerable sway. The film, Le Mur or The Wall, already viewed tens of thousands of times on YouTube, is calling attention to the ongoing stranglehold that psychoanalytic theories still have over autism treatment in France.
The film’s interviews with prominent French psychiatrists leaves the viewer wondering whether in France treatments for pediatric developmental disorders are stuck in some sort of bizarre Freudian time warp. These ideas have been so thoroughly debunked in the rest of the world (not that in the U.S. we don’t have our equally controversial theories of autism—Exhibit A: the rise of vaccine related hypotheses) that its persistence from a non-French perspective seems farcical. Listening to the talking heads in Robert’s film reinforces that feeling.
But here’s the kicker – Robert has been sued by three of the people she interviewed, and the film has been withdrawn.
The film is under attack in France and three of its subjects—Esthela Solano Suárez, Éric Laurent and Alexandre Stevens—sued the filmmaker, claiming that they were misrepresented in the film. Last week a court in Lille ordered Robert to remove from her film the likenesses of the three plaintiffs and pay them significant damages. At issue in the case is whether Robert edited the film to manipulate her subjects. Robert will be filing an appeal and told me that the plaintiffs signed a detailed release prior to appearing on camera.
Despite the intense pressure on her following the court’s decision—she is financially liable and is likely to shutter her company while she appeals—Robert is committed to her film and believes it is drawing a spotlight on the stranglehold psychoanalysis has in France. To Robert, who herself once wanted to be an analyst, “psychoanalysis has an hypnotic effect” and is a “cult antithetical to science.”
Shades of Simon Singh, and critics of Burzynski, and victims of SLAPP suits.
To be continued.