AFI DOCS: Jerry Rothwell on THE REASON I JUMP – American Film Institute



THE REASON I JUMP, winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Audience Award, screened at AFI DOCS online film festival on June 20.

Opening a window into the sensory universe of five nonspeaking autistic people from around the world, THE REASON I JUMP takes the audience on a uniquely cinematic journey that is both revelatory and inspiring. Based on the remarkable best-selling book by 13-year-old Naoki Higashida, the film brilliantly blends its portraits with Higashida’s own insights into autism.

Acutely observed moments in the lives of each of the five people are connected by passages from Higashida’s writing, which comes to life in scenes featuring a young Japanese boy. As the boy travels through an epic landscape, he gradually discovers what his autism means to him and why he acts the way he does: the reason he jumps.

Director Jerry Rothwell first heard about Higashida’s book “The Reason I Jump” from producers Jeremy Dear and Stevie Lee, whose son Joss is featured in the film.

“Naoki, who is non-speaking, wrote the book when he was 13 years old by pointing to letters on an alphabet board. In it, he describes his experiences growing up, coming to be aware of is autism and his identity. I felt the book gave me a really different insight into autism,” said Rothwell. “I hope that the film makes you feel immersed in the world of young autistic people and that, when you come out of the film, you’re perhaps seeing things a little through their eyes… and to think more deeply about the idea of neurodiversity.” 

The film screened online at AFI DOCS on June 20.

A recorded discussion led by Disability Rights Activist Lawrence Carter Long with director Jerry Rothwell; producer Jeremy Dear; and subjects Elizabeth Vosseller, Ben and Emma followed the film.


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