Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia

"Backwards: The Riddle Of Dyslexia" is a 1984 episode of the American television anthology series ABC Afterschool Special, about dyslexia. It shows how dyslexia is detected and treated.[1] The episode stars 13-year-old River Phoenix in "one of his first major roles"[2] as Brian Ellsworth. Joaquin Phoenix (credited as Leaf Phoenix) also stars as his younger brother Robby. According to allmovie, Brian Ellsworth is a junior high student "who has a habit of writing his words – and the letters – backwards. Brian's friends think he's kidding, his teachers think he's lazy, and his parents think he's slow. In truth, Brian has dyslexia and suffers from societal misconceptions and Ableist idiocy."[2]

"Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia"
ABC Afterschool Special episode
Episode no.Season 12
Episode 6
Directed byAlexander Grasshoff
Written byArthur Heinemann
Franklin Thompson
Guy Fraumeni
Produced byShirley J. Eaton
Original air dateMarch 7, 1984 (1984-03-07)

Plot edit

Brian Ellsworth is a good student, however he cannot read well. When he is at school, he tries to avoid reading and writing, and whenever the teacher tells him to write he disturbs the lesson. Most of the teachers believe that Brian is lazy. Brian's classmates think that Brian enjoys annoying the teachers. Only one of his teachers wants to help Brian. She tries to find out the reasons behind his behavior. Brian's classmate, Kim, also tries to help Brian. She gives him private lessons. When it's discovered that Brian has dyslexia, he finally gets the help he needs. He slowly learns to write and read.

Overview edit

Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia is a television family drama directed by Alexander Grasshoff.[3] It aired as an ABC Afterschool Special on March 7, 1984.[4] In 1989 Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia was released on VHS in the United States.[5] It was also shown at schools as an educational programme about dyslexia. It was meant for students from grade four to six.[6][7]

It was one of the first major roles for the real-life brothers River Phoenix and Joaquin Phoenix.[8][9] Joaquin Phoenix got his first award nomination for the film.[10] For River Phoenix it was his third award nomination, after two nominations for his portrayal of Guthrie McFadden in the television series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.[11]

River Phoenix also had dyslexia.[12][13][14] However it wasn't known while River Phoenix was filming Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia. In 1986, two years after the film was broadcast, River Phoenix was diagnosed as dyslexic.[15]

In the film many famous dyslexic persons were named, like Albert Einstein, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and athlete Caitlyn Jenner.[16] At end of the special General George S. Patton and Thomas Edison are also named.

Awards edit

Critical reception edit

Several psychologists have criticized the film for the outdated common belief that reversing letters in words is the central feature of dyslexia. A good aspect is that the film shows that dyslexia isn't an indicator of low mental ability and that many highly intelligent people have dyslexia, too.[19][20]

US Magazine described the drama as slight but River Phoenix's portrayal as subtle and uncompromisingly real.[21]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Vincent Terrace (2011): Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012, 2d ed.. Jefferson: Shutterstock. P.3
  2. ^ a b "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia". Retrieved July 23, 2008.
  3. ^ "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984)". Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  4. ^ "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia". Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  5. ^ Backwards : the riddle of dyslexia. OCLC 23871700. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  6. ^ Susan T. Dennison (2011): Twelve Counseling Programs for Children at Risk. Springfield: Thomas Books. P.3
  7. ^ Martin Howden (2011): He's Still Here: The Biography of Joaquin Phoenix. Croydon: John Blake Publishing Ltd.
  8. ^ "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2016. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  9. ^ Kim Linekin (December 3, 2009). "He ain't heavy, he's my co-star: Brothers on film. River and Joaquin Phoenix – "ABC Afterschool Specials – Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia" (1984)". Archived from the original on September 14, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  10. ^ "Joaquin Phoenix. Awards". Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  11. ^ "River Phoenix. Awards". Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  12. ^ "Famous Dyslexics". The British Dyslexia Association. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  13. ^ Geoffrey Macnab (September 27, 2012). "River Phoenix: the last film". Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  14. ^ Kelli Kennedy (March 8, 2013). "River Phoenix's last film premieres in Miami". Archived from the original on March 11, 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  15. ^ John L. Baker (1998): Running on Empty. The Life and Career of River Phoenix. Fulton: Phoenix Literary Productions. P.55-56
  16. ^ "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia". Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "6th Youth In Film Awards". Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c "ABC Afterschool Specials (1972–1997). Awards". Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  19. ^ Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks. Myth 18: The Defining Feature of Dyslexia is Reversing Letters. In: Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry L. Beyerstein (2009): 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
  20. ^ Blake (2013): Children with Disabilities - Dispelling Myths About Dyslexia. In: Lexington Family, August 2013, S. 33.
  21. ^ Roberta and David Ritz (1995): Strange Days. In: US Magazine, October 1995.

External links edit