Autism Guardian Angels and Ed Asner honor Matt Asner at Autfest 2017

Ed Asner honors son Matt Asner with Golden Goody Award at Autfest (Photo by Joyce Chow)

Actor Ed Asner (“Up”) presented his son and Autism Advocate Matt Asner with a Golden Goody Award at the first Autfest International Film Festival on Sunday with Autism Guardian Angels (AGA) Founder David Luber. This lifetime achievement award was given at the Autfest VIP Reception hosted by The Autism Society of America (ASA), which was a celebration of two days with 15 films about autism and by autistic filmmakers at the AMC Orange 30 in Orange, California.

To kick off the Golden Goody Award presentation, AGA Founder David Luber cheered Matt, “On behalf of Autism Guardian Angels, we are absolutely delighted and honored to be able to honor Matt tonight with a lifetime achievement Golden Goody Award for his tireless dedication of 20 years in promoting autism awareness and bringing to millions of autistic kids and families a great deal of brilliance and health, and also honoring him for his six autistic children who he’s devoted to with his lovely wife (Navah).”

AGA Founder David Luber kicks off presentation by praising Autism Advocate Matt Asner before turning mic over to Ed Asner (Photo by Joyce Chow)

Mr. Luber then turned the microphone over to Ed Asner, who first joked about accepting the award himself. After many laughs and cheers, Ed got more serious.

With deep gratitude, Ed praised his son Matthew, “You are the best son a father could hope for (cheers). He is a loving demonstrative, talented, very talented individual. I’d be proud to have him in my company wherever I may be, or wherever I may work, because he will produce. And the Autism Society will find that he is a producer, and this night is one terrific example of what he can do when unleashed….So I give you Matthew David Asner, the pride and joy of the Asner family and it’s many cells.”

Following more cheers, hugs and kisses, Matt accepted the Golden Goody Award (FULL VIDEO) with these heartfelt words, “Thank you dad. I really appreciate this. Wow. This means a lot to me. Seven – eight years ago, I made a decision to change my career and left producing, and went into the world of autism because I felt the need to change the way my son lives, and my sons live now, and my brother lives. I saw the need. It was important. I worked hard for five years at another organization, and now at Autism Society, I really feel that I’m home.”

Matt then continued by thanking David Luber from Autism Guardian Angels for this award, and all the Autfest sponsors for taking a chance of their first film festival, including Hyundai, AMC Theatres, Bob Wright, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Autism Guardian Angels, Fullerton Cares and the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Media sponsors included ABC 7 Eyewitness News (George Pennacchio interviewed Ben Affleck) and Variety (Terry Flores moderated the “Inside Out” panel).

During Autfest, nine feature films and six short films were shown at the AMC Orange 30 Theatre. Films included Oscar-nominated documentary “Life, Animated”, “Destiny” from China and “Redha” from Malaysia. Two of the shorts, “Even in Death” and “The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born” (by Dani Bowman and Keaton Bicknell), were written and directed by filmmakers on the autism spectrum. Panelists included “Po” director John Asher and actor Julian Feder, as well as an autism sibling panel following the “Life, Animated” screening. Autfest filmmaker awards were also given during this VIP Reception.

Autfest Red Carpet L to R: Guardians Patrick Eidemiller and Sandy Eidemiller, Dani Bowman (Autism Advocate and autistic filmmaker) and Keaton Bicknell (autistic filmmaker)

In addition to Matt Asner’s special award presentation, Autfest Host and VP of Development at The Autism Society of America, three Academy Award Winners and filmmakers were recognized. Pixar Animation Studios filmmakers Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera were celebrated during the Q&A after a sensory screening of “Inside Out”, and Ben Affleck was honored during the Q&A after a special screening of “The Accountant.” Matt Asner shared, “AutFest is proud to honor outstanding filmmakers Ben Affleck, Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera for their cinematic contributions reflecting the autism community.”

At the end of this VIP Reception, The Autism Society of America CEO Scott Badesch, announced that they would be back next year for the 2nd Annual Autfest and praised Matt, “I love you. If there’s anyone more deserving of an award, I can’t find… His vision and his belief that we want to create a world where everyone is accepting, it doesn’t get any better. And we’re delighted to have him as part of our family.”

L to R: Academy Award Winner (“Inside Out”) Jonas Rivera, Matt Asner (Autfest Host and ASA), Academy Award Winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out”) and Scott Bedesch (CEO, Autism Society of America)

Congratulations Matt Asner and The Autism Society of America for moving the bar in autism awareness and acceptance with Autfest. Look for The Autism Society of America PSA (Public Service Announcement) animated Autism Advocate and Filmmaker Dani Bowman now showing in over 4000 AMC Theaters in the US in April for Autism Awareness Month. It shows how ASA is there for the families impacted by autism through all stages of life.

*Edited version of The Huffington Post Story by Liz H Kelly.