I could not believe it when I found this documentary earlier in the year.
I use the book this documentary is based on, The Reason I Jump by 13-year old teen with classic Autism, Naoki Higashida, as a source during our Overcoming Obstacles unit in my 7th grade literacy class. I found the book years ago while watching an interview with David Mitchell (who had written the forward for the book) on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I was intrigued by what I had heard. So I searched out the novel. It was a quick read but it was amazing. The insight given about Autism was fantastic and I immediately built the unit around it.
As I was preparing this year’s unit, I stumbled across the documentary that was based on the book and I was desperate to see it. Unfortunately, it was not available, having just been shown at some film festivals. I knew that I would keep my eyes open for the doc to become available on a source I could watch.
It is here now, on Netflix.
The documentary follows the lives of five Autistic children, using the words of Higashida as a backdrop. It is a doc that pulls back the curtain of the mysterious disorder, gives the world a chance to see what is going on inside the minds of these individuals who are mostly silent.
It shows the audience the misunderstandings engulfing Autism, including the panic attacks and the perceptions that the kids are the way they are because of some lack of mental acumen. It continues on beautifully to build empathy for the kids, instead of sympathy. When something is understood, it is considerably easier to help deal with and Autism is no different.
The cinematography of the movie is lovely, with so many amazing scenes with these children. There are shots within the documentary that are breathtaking, but yet they take on a fully different concept because of the perception of the kids involved. The children this doc is covering bring more of a depth to each scene than just the, admittedly stunning, visuals do. You can’t help but wonder what these subjects are seeing, perceiving, living.
Directed by Jerry Rothwell, Naoki Higashida is listed as a writer. The film is short, around 82 minutes, but the importance of each image cannot be overstated.
Everyone who has a connection to an Autistic person should see this doc. If you do not have a connection to an Autistic doc, you should also see this because the world could use more empathy in it today.