This film competed in
2015 Big Sky Doc Fest Mini-Docs Showcase
Director(s): Jeff Bemiss and Trinity College Film Students
Coaching Colburn: Finding Love and Laughter in the Face of Autism. James Colburn was born with Fragile X Syndrome. At 26, he is a child at heart who uses his gift of comedic timing to inspire those around him. James is living proof there is love and laughter in the face of autism. James Colburn was born with Fragile X Syndrome. At 26, he is a child at heart who finds joy in small things and uses his gift of comedic timing to inspire those around him. James is living proof there is love and laughter in the face of autism. * * * Even though James’s disability is serious, it is impossible not to laugh around him. He has impeccable comedic timing, often without meaning it, and those who love him have learned it is okay to laugh at the things James says and does. It is unfortunate such a bright mind is hidden beneath this syndrome, but his family has decided to embrace the situation and be grateful for who James is, not who he could have been. James is generally a happy person, but there are times when he can be exceedingly difficult and moody, most often around his family. Raising and caring for James has not been easy; he requires supervision bathing and taking his medicine, and he can’t cook for himself. James will never be able to live independently. It can be a struggle to get James to take his medicine, or to get him out of a store when he sees something he really likes. He sometimes lashes out and says hurtful things, especially to his family, when he is upset. Although life with James is filled with difficulties, it is also highlighted by a great deal of joy. James is somewhat of a celebrity in his hometown. Despite having graduated from high school in 2006, he has returned several times to high school events, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. He was even invited to ride on the float in his hometown’s parade for the state champion high school hockey team. James is a big ham who thrives on attention and laughter, doing the best he can to keep the laughs going. One of his talents is an ability to do impressions. His best include Squidward and Mr. Krabs (from the show Spongebob Squarepants), all of the Three Stooges, various Mario characters (especially Waluigi), cows, and various others. James also does musical impressions, although they are admittedly not as good. His favorite artists include The Beatles, The Backstreet Boys, and One Direction, whose songs he sings loudly and out-of-tune. He has probably owned every Beatles CD at least five times over, one of his favorite songs being “Hey Jude.” (James’s neighbors named their baby Jude, perhaps from hearing the song played so often.) Coaching Colburn is a short documentary that highlights the difficulties of raising James, while emphasizing the joy he brings to the lives of those around him. It is also a portrait of how one family uses humor to cope with a devastating disability.