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] [AVAILABLE SOON!]


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”. 

Director's Commentary: 

When I first met DJ Savarese, I saw a passionate, earnest teenager bent on using alternative communication to realize the life he envisioned for himself and other nonspeaking people.  His views on life and disability were more perceptive than those of many adults, and his fresh, poetic ways of describing them outshone those of almost anyone else I’d met.  He burned with an inner fire to “find freedom” in his own life and to “break barriers” for others like him. The timing was right for a highly personal film to explore and celebrate neurodiversity. Together, we wrestled with the challenge not just of how to tell his story but who should tell it.  We agreed to become full partners, sharing editorial control of the film. This dynamic, creative tension helped make DEEJ a much stronger, deeper film than either of us could make on our own.