DJ Savarese (“Deej”) is a nonspeaking young autistic who dreams of college and communicates via text-to-voice synthesizer, and here via documentary and poetry in collaboration with director Robert Rooy. Filmed in a one-of-a-kind partnership over six years, “Deej takes several masterful steps forward in inclusive filmmaking.” [Peabody Award jury, 2017]
"Deej refreshingly avoids the trap of speaking for a person with autism.... Deej enjoys remarkable access but avoids brash intrusion precisely by allowing Deej himself to dictate the terms of engagement, to explain scenes and events, and to determine what we should hear or see.... Ultimately, Deej takes several masterful steps forward in inclusive filmmaking, while using Savarese’s poetry to offer an at-times soulful study of adolescence, leaving home, and becoming an adult. For this, America ReFramed: Deej receives a Peabody Award.
After spending his early years in foster care, without access to language, DJ Savarese (“Deej”) found not only a loving family but also a life in words, which he types on a text-to-voice synthesizer. As he dreams of college, he confronts the terrors of his past, society’s obstacles to inclusion and the often-paralyzing beauty of his own senses.
In this first-of-its-kind collaboration between a veteran filmmaker and a nonspeaking autistic, Robert Rooy and DJ share editorial control as they navigate the challenges of representing autism. Deej is a story told from the inside, not by parents or “experts”.
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“Deej is the best film on autism I’ve ever seen. So much of DJ’s experience resonates deeply with me; it feels authentic from start to finish. Deej is an important film for anyone who wants to understand autistic lives.”
“Every time the world changes, someone has to go first. It's hard to go first. DJ knows this better than most. But Deej makes one thing very clear – he's going to bring all of us along with him."
"...a breath of fresh air comes in foregrounding Deej, front and center, as the agent of his own story. Deej is highly recommended for both the K-12 and college levels." -- Cynthia Wu, University of Buffalo (SUNY) [3/1/2018]
*** 3 1/2 stars *** "Deej offers a vivid insider's view of autism, as Deej describes how his senses sometimes overpower his functioning, the effort it takes to stay on track, and how his body acts silly when excited, fearful or anxious." -- T. Root. 
"Deej's poetry is animated in a flowing style of brushstrokes in motion that is very affecting. Although this inspiring documentary is about a person with a disability, it's really about the love of language... VERDICT: An inspiring story of triumph over adversity." -- Ann Brownson, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston [February, 2018]
“Deej represents a giant leap forward in shifting public perception of nonspeaking Autistic people. The documentary brings to light the idea of presuming competence and how…that one thought can provide a bright future.”
"In my 40 years of research, teaching and advocacy in the field of autism, I've seen nothing to top it. Deej will do much to help others who...remain consigned to the margins of history."
“Every moment in a disability life is provisional, capricious, filled with ups and downs, and so, disability is also a model of what being richly alive is about. [Deej] is about life, real life, with all its fabrics, gropings, silences, shouts…"
“DJ cannot speak with his voice, and yet his words rise up in a powerful, poetic voice of advocacy…. Fierce hope fuels determination and poetry defies terror. We'll be able to help spread the word to a global audience...”
"Deej is a beautifully rendered testimony to the power of meaningful inclusion in education, and the tenacity and courage students with disabilities and their families demonstrate trying to access essential rights and participate as full members of the community."
"…a brilliant, moving and innovative film – providing deep insight into DJ’s experience and his 'quest for freedom' for all individuals with disabilities. Inspiring, thought-provoking…Deej is a film worth watching for anyone, including those of us who provide support for individuals with disabilities."
“The AutCom motto, Social Justice For All Citizens with Autism, challenges our world to provide access to people with autism to all aspects of life. Deej seeks to overcome the negative stereotypes we seem to be bombarded with…”
"Wow. Deej opens up the world of autism like nothing I’ve ever seen. What a joy to see it.”