The Reason I Jump
The Reason I Jump 2020 Vulcan Productions, Inc., The British Film Institute,
Picturehouse Entertainment Director: Jerry Rothwell
Image Shows: A film poster for ‘The Reason I Jump’. On the poster a young boy with dark hair looks up and to the left against a glowing orange and blue sky.
The Reason I Jump was written by Japanese non-speaking Autistic Naoki Higashida and published in 2007. Higashida is a speller who uses a letterboard and typing to communicate. He wrote the book when he was 13.
Image Shows: A young man with glasses, dark hair in a white shirt, dark jacket and striped blue tie. He is seated at a table with a folded towel and a mug. He is looking at the camera a holding his ear with one hand while his other hand hovers over a letterboard of Roman and Kanji glyphs.
In 2013 Cloud Atlas Author David Mitchell translated the book with his Japanese wife Keiko Yoshida to find ways to better help and understand their young Autistic son.
In 2020 Jerry Rothwell released a documentary film adaptation of the translation.
Images Show: A portrait photograph of author David Mitchell against a black background. He is a middle-aged man with a thin face and brown hair in a grey shirt and has a neutral expression. A book cover for the English translation of ‘The Reason I Jump’ it has white title text over a fragmented blue image. A black and white portrait photograph of filmmaker Jerry Rothwell against a light grey background. He has a broad smiling face, black-rimmed glasses and greying hair. He is wearing a light shirt and a dark jacket.
Higashida’s book is a series of questions Non-Autistic people might ask Autistic person, and then his answers. Between questions there are imaginative, fable-like short stories.
The film uses Higashida’s answers as a voice over while telling the stories of five non-speaking Autistic children across the world. It uses binaural (3D) sound design, in camera effects and visual metaphor to represent autistic sensory experiences.
Amrit – A young female artist in northern India, supported by her mother.
Joss – A teenage boy in the UK, his parents have moved him to a residential school
Jestina – A girl in Sierra Leone, her parents helped found a school for autistic children amidst accusations that autistic people are possessed by the devil and should be abandoned or left to die.
Ben & Emma – Young friends in Canada,soon moving out from their parents and shown using Rapid Prompting Method and AAC devices to communicate.
Rothwell employed a non-speaking Autistic boy of Japanese heritage to represent the young Higashida.
The sound designer employed an Autistic cellist to help craft some of the soundtrack.
At times, the film highlights how Autistic people can take joy in how we see the world.
The film prioritises Autistic people with its focus, and shows the challenges and experiences of Autistic people in non-European/American settings.
Mitchell is interviewed and defends Autistic people who are disbelieved if they can express themselves as well as Hagishida does.
The film is aimed at non-Autistic people who want to understand autism, and it gives more screen time to parents than listening to Autistic people.
It is not clear how many Autistic people were involved in the writing or production of the film.
The film and Mitchell uses language that romanticises and “others” Autistic people.
The film promotes the RPM technique- this does not have double-blind testing to assess the role of the assistant in it. Critics say that it is similar to Facilitated Communication, which is discredited and tied to abuse.
The poetical language of the book and the way it speaks for Autistic people in general has led to accusations that it reads like a non-autistic person’s “dream” of an autistic person’s interior world*. * https://lithub.com/what-is-the-writers-responsibility-to-those-unable-to-tell-their-own-stories/
The Reason I Jump has many moments that are reassuring to Autistic viewers, although perhaps because we may see different things in it- about the value of how we perceive the world and our ability to communicate when given the tools. It also highlights the horrific treatment Autistic people still receive across the world.
“A person who’s looking at a mountain far away doesn’t notice the prettiness of a dandelion in front of them.” – Naoki Higashida