The 2010 documentary film Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon follows two generations of the Murray family of New York. One son, Chris, born in 1961, was diagnosed with Autism as an adult. Chris is now known for his Manhattan cityscapes and other artwork, which is exhibited and prized by collectors. The film follows Chris living independently in New Haven, CT (where he completed Chapel Haven’s transition program), creating art, being with family, and navigating his way to and around New York.
Dad’s in Heaven testifies to the transformative power of creative expression. But it is equally a story of family and relationships. The title refers to Chris’s belief that his deceased father, Thomas Murray, is now friends with Richard Nixon despite loathing him in life. Thomas never came to terms with his son’s differences. Chris’s mother and siblings, however, worked tirelessly supporting his development in an era when little was known about ASD.
Watching this film reminded me of so much I have experienced this year at The Community School. Many of our participants have extraordinary creative talents expressed daily. When relationships are strained among peers, they are time and again healed with the patience and commitment of participants and staff. And TCS families are endlessly devoted to supporting their child or young adult’s well-being. It’s as inspiring as any story that could be captured on film.
– Matt Varley