Please sign this online petition to boycott the movie
"The United States of Leland"

Fair Use laws apply. This page is non-profit and intended only to educate interested parties
about the progress of the petition to boycott a movie which depicts the brutal slaying of an autistic child.

Production Companies

Movie Premise

Our Concerns

Screenplay Writer Matthew Hoge defending the character he created,
 "Leland," who murders an Autistic Child

Matthew Hoge Backpedaling

Matthew Hoge's dishonest publicist lying to a parent of an autistic child

Review of the screenplay by Darwin Mayflower

The Opinion of U.S. Congressman Mac Collins

If you have a strong stomach, see how supporters of this film have viciously attacked parents of autistic children. There are all sorts of unsavory characters spreading their message of ignorance and hate on this forum. Many claim to know the director personally. Some deny having anything to do with the film but know far too much about the movie not to be associated with it in some way.

petition forum -- enter at own risk

 

The United States of Leland Production Companies:

Trigger Street (Ordinary Decent Criminal; Kevin Spacey's production company)
Thousand Words (Requiem for a Dream, Waking Life)
MDP Worldwide
Neverland Pictures (Michael Jackson's production company)

The United States of Leland

One parent wrote a letter of concern to the autism-awareness-action list in April.
Another parent wrote to the parenting_autism list on August 12.
An email was posted to several lists on August 13.
The petition was started about a week later. Please join us by signing the petition.

Here's the original premise of the movie:

The United States of Leland

Synopsis: This is the story of a sensitive teenager, Leland (Gosling), faced with issues of morality and hope under difficult circumstances, who is arrested and sent to juvenile hall, after he kills an autistic child out of sympathy (sort of like an emotional euthanasia). Once there, he meets a teacher, Mr. Pearl (Cheadle), who helps him figure out the reasons for why he committed the crime, as we also see the ramifications of the murder have on his community, his family, and that of the victim.

Other descriptions of the film include:

Synopsis:
Leland, a 15-year-old, murders an autistic child and claims that he committed the act out of sadness. He is sent to a juvenile facility, where a male teacher named Pearl must unravel the mystery behind Leland's murderous act and sadness while at the same time deal with how the tragic killing affects the families of both the victim and the perpetrator.
www.hollywood.com

What United States of Leland Is About: A 15-year-old boy who murders an autistic kid out of pity is forced to go to a psychiatric facility where he forms a friendship with a psychiatrist played by Don Cheadle.
www.countingdown.com

Our first concern (aside from the fact that a helpless autistic child is murdered by another child for the sake of entertainment) is the way this movie will portray the autistic child.

This autistic child with no name that we can find (he's a non-person) is Becky Pollard's brother. Becky is Leland's girlfriend. In the original movie synopsis on the Thousand Words website, (which has been rewritten twice since the petition began) we were told that Leland has a hard time maintaining a relationship with Becky.

With the numbers of autism cases rising, we need public awareness of the condition. But is this the image we want to portray? That an autistic child is so pathetic, annoying, or inconvenient that his murderer is seen as " a frail sixteen-year old with vulnerability in his eyes" and "enigmatic" and "Leland an intelligent and compassionate teenager " and "an extraordinary young individual " and  a "sensitive teenager" and he also has the ability to "inspire people to change their lives for the better."

Please try to remember, we're talking about the killer here, not the autistic dead body who may even get a name in the movie so they can talk about the kid who ruined poor Leland's life.
 

Since the petition began, the director has contacted the petitioners by email and the PR agency  has called one of us to try to explain things. The movie company has re-written the synopsis of the film, leaving out the words "autism" and "emotional euthanasia." 

We are not satisfied with this since the basic story hasn't changed. In our opinion, it doesn't really matter how "touching and poignant" the portrayal is -- it's still about euthanasia of the disabled. Since the characters are teens, it will still desensitize young people to the idea of euthanasia.

Please read Matthew Hoge's own words:

"It's about a sixteen year old boy named Leland Fitzgerald," explains Hoge, "who murders an autistic child. The course of the film really follows Leland as he goes into a juvenile facility where he collides with Pearl Madison (Don Cheadle) who is a teacher there. So it's really about these two characters colliding and then on the outside all the other people who where affected by this tragedy."

In tackling the story's difficult subject matter, Hoge relied on his own experiences to create both a realistic and human story. "I taught for two years in the LA county juvenile court system," recounts Hoge. "So I wanted to set something in that environment and incorporate the people and the situations that I was sort of privy to and that a lot of people aren't. As a society we want to distance ourselves from these kids and turn them into the other, because anyone who would commit this appalling act can't be like us. Hopefully this film tells the story of this facility or exposes the unexpected side of it to people which is that we can't give up on these kids."

 

Sorry, Mr. Hoge. With a few exceptions, the parents of autistic children and autistic adults are probably not interested in giving "kids like this" another chance.

 

Please read Matthew Hoge's message to petitioners:

My name is Matthew Hoge, and I'm the writer and director of "The United States of Leland." I'm very concerned about the reaction our film is causing in your community, and I'm grateful that I was made aware of this petition so that I might be able to share some of my thoughts with you.

'The United States of Leland'; is NOT about the sympathy killing of an autistic child by a 'hero.' This synopsis (or something similar) evidently appears on many websites, and it is greatly inaccurate. The downside of the Internet is that it has the potential to spread false information like wildfire, and I'm afraid that's what has happened here.

Turning a person who murders a child into a hero would be despicable. Advancing the idea that certain children with special needs are better off dead is appalling. I assure you that this is not our agenda.

My mother has been a special education teacher for over a decade. She cares about her students as if they were her own children. I learned a great deal from hearing her discuss the joys and challenges of working with her students. I worked briefly in a similar classroom setting, and was inspired and moved by the children I met. I couldn't agree more that these children don't need sympathy. They need understanding, they need tolerance, they need support.

What is 'The United States of Leland' really about? It's about a deeply troubled youth, Leland, who tragically projects his own inner turmoil onto a mentally handicapped child. In no way is Leland presented as heroic. His actions are not condoned, and they can never be forgiven. The motivations for the crime are complex, relating to Leland's family and personal life.

The outbreak of violent acts perpetrated by young people in our society is disturbing. I worked for two years as a teacher in the juvenile hall system, and encountered many cases firsthand. We've all heard the stories re kids bringing guns to school, kids harming their parents, kids hurting other kids. How can things like this happen?

This is the question at the heart of 'The United States of Leland.' The film looks at the events that lead up to a terrible tragedy. The goal is to analyze a crime that seems incomprehensible. The hope is that, by doing so, we might be able to shed some light on important issues relating to acts of violence committed by young people.

I'm sorry that you have learned about our film through inaccurate sources, and I appreciate the opportunity to dispel the misconceptions about 'The United States of Leland.' Thank you for your time and open-minded consideration.

 

A reporter's conversation with Stacey Wolfe:

Stacey Wolfe is a PR exec for Polaris, the PR company for the film the United States of Leland.

Stacey called me to explain how EX-IM bank is involved in the film. She said they are "like insurance" and only pay up if someone defaults.

I explained that I already knew that. What I said in my original letter was, the EX-IM Bank was guaranteeing 90% of the loans on this film.

She said that there aren't many defaults on loans. I explained that I was not an expert on the movie production industry, but I felt if insurance was needed to protect banks, then default must not be terribly uncommon.

What I wanted to know is exactly why they made a film about a wonderful young person who murders an autistic child.

Stacey: "Well, he's not really a wonderful young person."

Me: What about the synopsis on the website?

Stacey: "The film doesn't have a website."

Me: What about the webpage for The United States of Leland" on the Thousand Words website?

Stacey: "Thousand Words is involved in production of the film."

Me: The webpage states that he's a 'sensitive and extraordinary individual.'

Stacey: "They say extraordinary but that could be the wrong word. It does not condone or glorify this ..."

Me: Why don't you tell me what the movie is really about then?

Stacey: "The movie is about a boy who murders an autistic chi ... no .. not autistic. The disability is not really discussed in the movie. We aren't sure what the circumstances are ... so the film is trying to discover why and it tears apart the people around him ... It's bad enough to murder anyone, but a child like that ... uh, it's about how heinous it is."

Me: I thought Leland had a positive effect on the people around him?

Stacey: "No, no. It's about the goodness that comes out of the victims' family."

Me: "The positive effect of the murder of the child is on the victim's family? Why does it say just the opposite on the webpage?"

Stacey: "It examines the goodness in people that comes out in the worst of times. Haven't you ever had anything happen in your life where you were just completely devastated and you discovered something about yourself?"

I couldn't believe this. I really couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Me: "You're talking to the mother of an autistic child. You're talking to the mother of a child with kidney disease. You're talking to the mother of child who required a complete spinal fusion for scoliosis. Three years ago I had three healthy children. I think I qualify as someone who has 'had something happen in my life.' The only positive thing is that I'm stronger.

Silence

Me: Okay, Stacey. How does the murder of their child have a positive effect on the family?

Stacey: "It's about the goodness that comes out of the victims' family. It's not -- I'm not saying the family ... it's about what comes out of total despair. I hope you understand more about the financing. I can't tell you anymore about the movie. It's not my place."

Me: I never misunderstood about the financing. Is there someone I can speak to who can explain about the movie because the synopsis for the film is wrong, as you say. Is there someone who could explain it better?

Stacey: "Only the producer can do that."

Me: Thank you for calling, Stacey.

The only way she is even remotely telling the truth is if Leland kills his girlfriend's brother. She's the "one most affected by the murder" -- according their synopsis.

Immediately after I sent this out, Thousand Words changed the synopsis once again. The words "autism" and "euthansia" have been removed and they finally revealed that the autistic kid with no name is Becky's brother.

It makes no difference to us if the director calls the child autistic or gives him some non-descript disability. We are against any disabled person being murdered out of sympathy, sadness or for interference in someone's personal life.

1ld boy who murders an autistic kid out of pity is forced to go to a psychiatric facility where he forms a friendship with a psychiatrist played by Don Cheadle.
www.countingdown.com

Our first concern (aside from the fact that a helpless autistic child is murdered by another child for the sake of entertainment) is the way this movie will portray the autistic child.

This autistic child with no name that we can find (he's a non-person) is Becky Pollard's brother. Becky is Leland's girlfriend. In the original movie synopsis on the Thousand Words website, (which has been rewritten twice since the petition began) we were told that Leland has a hard time maintaining a relationship with Becky.

With the numbers of autism cases rising, we need public awareness of the condition. But is this the image we want to portray? That an autistic child is so pathetic, annoying, or inconvenient that his murderer is seen as " a frail sixteen-year old with vulnerability in his eyes" and "enigmatic" and "Leland an intelligent and compassionate teenager " and "an extraordinary young individual " and  a "sensitive teenager" and he also has the ability to "inspire people to change their lives for the better."

Please try to remember, we're talking about the killer here, not the autistic dead body who may even get a name in the movie so they can talk about the kid who ruined poor Leland's life.
 

Since the petition began, the director has contacted the petitioners by email and the PR agency  has called one of us to try to explain things. The movie company has re-written the synopsis of the film, leaving out the words "autism" and "emotional euthanasia." 

We are not satisfied with this since the basic story hasn't changed. In our opinion, it doesn't really matter how "touching and poignant" the portrayal is -- it's still about euthanasia of the disabled. Since the characters are teens, it will still desensitize young people to the idea of euthanasia.

Please read Matthew Hoge's own words:

"It's about a sixteen year old boy named Leland Fitzgerald," explains Hoge, "who murders an autistic child. The course of the film really follows Leland as he goes into a juvenile facility where he collides with Pearl Madison (Don Cheadle) who is a teacher there. So it's really about these two characters colliding and then on the outside all the other people who where affected by this tragedy."

In tackling the story's difficult subject matter, Hoge relied on his own experiences to create both a realistic and human story. "I taught for two years in the LA county juvenile court system," recounts Hoge. "So I wanted to set something in that environment and incorporate the people and the situations that I was sort of privy to and that a lot of people aren't. As a society we want to distance ourselves from these kids and turn them into the other, because anyone who would commit this appalling act can't be like us. Hopefully this film tells the story of this facility or exposes the unexpected side of it to people which is that we can't give up on these kids."

 

Sorry, Mr. Hoge. With a few exceptions, the parents of autistic children and autistic adults are probably not interested in giving "kids like this" another chance.

 

Please read Matthew Hoge's message to petitioners:

My name is Matthew Hoge, and I'm the writer and director of "The United States of Leland." I'm very concerned about the reaction our film is causing in your community, and I'm grateful that I was made aware of this petition so that I might be able to share some of my thoughts with you.

'The United States of Leland'; is NOT about the sympathy killing of an autistic child by a 'hero.' This synopsis (or something similar) evidently appears on many websites, and it is greatly inaccurate. The downside of the Internet is that it has the potential to spread false information like wildfire, and I'm afraid that's what has happened here.

Turning a person who murders a child into a hero would be despicable. Advancing the idea that certain children with special needs are better off dead is appalling. I assure you that this is not our agenda.

My mother has been a special education teacher for over a decade. She cares about her students as if they were her own children. I learned a great deal from hearing her discuss the joys and challenges of working with her students. I worked briefly in a similar classroom setting, and was inspired and moved by the children I met. I couldn't agree more that these children don't need sympathy. They need understanding, they need tolerance, they need support.

What is 'The United States of Leland' really about? It's about a deeply troubled youth, Leland, who tragically projects his own inner turmoil onto a mentally handicapped child. In no way is Leland presented as heroic. His actions are not condoned, and they can never be forgiven. The motivations for the crime are complex, relating to Leland's family and personal life.

The outbreak of violent acts perpetrated by young people in our society is disturbing. I worked for two years as a teacher in the juvenile hall system, and encountered many cases firsthand. We've all heard the stories re kids bringing guns to school, kids harming their parents, kids hurting other kids. How can things like this happen?

This is the question at the heart of 'The United States of Leland.' The film looks at the events that lead up to a terrible tragedy. The goal is to analyze a crime that seems incomprehensible. The hope is that, by doing so, we might be able to shed some light on important issues relating to acts of violence committed by young people.

I'm sorry that you have learned about our film through inaccurate sources, and I appreciate the opportunity to dispel the misconceptions about 'The United States of Leland.' Thank you for your time and open-minded consideration.

 

A reporter's conversation with Stacey Wolfe:

Stacey Wolfe is a PR exec for Polaris, the PR company for the film the United States of Leland.

Stacey called me to explain how EX-IM bank is involved in the film. She said they are "like insurance" and only pay up if someone defaults.

I explained that I already knew that. What I said in my original letter was, the EX-IM Bank was guaranteeing 90% of the loans on this film.

She said that there aren't many defaults on loans. I explained that I was not an expert on the movie production industry, but I felt if insurance was needed to protect banks, then default must not be terribly uncommon.

What I wanted to know is exactly why they made a film about a wonderful young person who murders an autistic child.

Stacey: "Well, he's not really a wonderful young person."

Me: What about the synopsis on the website?

Stacey: "The film doesn't have a website."

Me: What about the webpage for The United States of Leland" on the Thousand Words website?

Stacey: "Thousand Words is involved in production of the film."

Me: The webpage states that he's a 'sensitive and extraordinary individual.'

Stacey: "They say extraordinary but that could be the wrong word. It does not condone or glorify this ..."

Me: Why don't you tell me what the movie is really about then?

Stacey: "The movie is about a boy who murders an autistic chi ... no .. not autistic. The disability is not really discussed in the movie. We aren't sure what the circumstances are ... so the film is trying to discover why and it tears apart the people around him ... It's bad enough to murder anyone, but a child like that ... uh, it's about how heinous it is."

Me: I thought Leland had a positive effect on the people around him?

Stacey: "No, no. It's about the goodness that comes out of the victims' family."

Me: "The positive effect of the murder of the child is on the victim's family? Why does it say just the opposite on the webpage?"

Stacey: "It examines the goodness in people that comes out in the worst of times. Haven't you ever had anything happen in your life where you were just completely devastated and you discovered something about yourself?"

I couldn't believe this. I really couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Me: "You're talking to the mother of an autistic child. You're talking to the mother of a child with kidney disease. You're talking to the mother of child who required a complete spinal fusion for scoliosis. Three years ago I had three healthy children. I think I qualify as someone who has 'had something happen in my life.' The only positive thing is that I'm stronger.

Silence

Me: Okay, Stacey. How does the murder of their child have a positive effect on the family?

Stacey: "It's about the goodness that comes out of the victims' family. It's not -- I'm not saying the family ... it's about what comes out of total despair. I hope you understand more about the financing. I can't tell you anymore about the movie. It's not my place."

Me: I never misunderstood about the financing. Is there someone I can speak to who can explain about the movie because the synopsis for the film is wrong, as you say. Is there someone who could explain it better?

Stacey: "Only the producer can do that."

Me: Thank you for calling, Stacey.

The only way she is even remotely telling the truth is if Leland kills his girlfriend's brother. She's the "one most affected by the murder" -- according their synopsis.

Immediately after I sent this out, Thousand Words changed the synopsis once again. The words "autism" and "euthansia" have been removed and they finally revealed that the autistic kid with no name is Becky's brother.

It makes no difference to us if the director calls the child autistic or gives him some non-descript disability. We are against any disabled person being murdered out of sympathy, sadness or for interference in someone's personal life.

1