Julie Sokolow just knew David Matthews as the guy who plastered personal ads on telephone polls around town. Then, one day, he sent her a Facebook message asking to make a short video of himself for a woman he was trying to impress at the time. "I hadn't met him before in person," Sokolow says. "I just decided he'd be a great creative partner."
Four years later, local filmmaker Sokolow released her first documentary feature — Aspie Seeks Love — a film that follows Matthews as he navigates a dating world full of unspoken conventions that often frustrate even the most socially adept among us.
Matthews, an Aliquippa native, was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 41 (after a date suggested he get tested for it). He says that he agreed to more extensive coverage of his life after "Julie convinced me that documenting my experiences for the public would help the public better understand the problems that somebody with my neurologic condition might have in interacting with the outside world."
The film has garnered awards at film festivals and national headlines for capturing an element of living with Asperger's that is rarely discussed. But Sokolow explains that she wasn't drawn to Matthews just because of his difference: "I could relate to his quest for love in the digital age."
Indeed, much of the film chronicles his adventures on OkCupid ("the camera never cock-blocked," Sokolow promises) but also explores his life as an artist (whose work has been reviewed by City Paper)
"I didn't want this to be didactic — like, 'what is autism' [or] 'what is Asperger's," Sokolow explains. "I wanted to play with identity and these labels and how we apply them."
The film premieres locally at 7 p.m. Thu., March 26, at Regent Square. An extended run is planned for April 25-29 at the Harris Theater. An interview with Matthews can be found here.