Young Dagenham film maker takes Asperger’s film to central London screen

A beautifully made short film about a Dagenham secondary school is only the beginning of a promising career for an aspiring young director with a sophisticated taste in movies.

Darrell Tuffs’ film The Passion of Those of ARP is a mini documentary about the work of Jo Richardson School’s additional resource provision for students with special educational needs.

The title of the film, one of seven works by Havering College students screened at the renowned Curzon Cinema in central London last week, is a reference to the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Having started off as a college project, the film soon developed into something more personal and profound.

Darrell, 19, of Chaplin Road, Dagenham, suffers from Asperger’s syndrome but nonetheless is in the first year of a two-year media studies course at Havering College.

The former Jo Richardson student said: “I was proud to see it up there – it’s quite a big thing.

“I have Asperger’s myself and I made the film to show the experience I had of it when I was in school.

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“Some teachers in the department are really good at what they’re doing and they are not really shown in public. They make a difference.

“I’ve had lots of support throughout my whole life. It really boosts my confidence and I wanted to do something for myself and make a film about something I care about.

“The teachers saw me as really different – I used to never say anything.

“Suddenly I show up as a confident student, interviewing them, asking lots of questions.”

Even when Darrell was shy and had social problems, he insists he wanted to be part of the daily banter and games with other students.

He said: “It was kind of my everyday experience, a lonely trip. I got picked on a lot for not speaking. A lot of people did not understand why I did not speak. I was isolated and alone.

“Every day I sat on the same chair in the same position, wishing I could be like those people who have friends and go out and do things. I wanted to speak to people and make my views heard.

“I think that’s why the film is important. Some people need some form of art to express themselves – something where I don’t have to sit in front of people and speak myself.”

Now Darrell has come to believe that having Asperger’s may even be beneficial in helping him to fulfil his high ambitions.

He is hoping to combine his passion for avant garde film, French New Wave and international film with the more familiar and accessible Hollywood format to bring a more diverse and interesting take on story telling to a wider audience.

He said: “I am aiming to be Dagenham’s high-profile film director. I want to succeed.

“I want to open people’s minds to different sorts of subjects. I think people would enjoy it.”

He added: “In some ways, Asperger’s is a real advantage because you can focus on one thing. In some ways it’s not. You have to take it as it is.”

His advice to other youngsters who are feeling lonely at school is: “Do not give up. Persevere and see what happens at college or at university.

“At college, teachers are very good at seeing the individuality of each student – you’re able to do stuff that others can’t.”

n You can watch Darrell’s films on YouTube by searching for Darrell Tuffs.