TIFF: 37 Seconds

Differently Abled – Not Disabled

37 Seconds is a 2019 debut feature film from Japanese writer-director, Hikari, which made its Canadian premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. The film starred first-time actress, Mei Kayama, who plays 23-year-old Yuma Takada –  a talented young woman with Cerebral Palsy who dreams to become a successful Mangaka (manga artist).  

Before the film started, Hikari informed the audience that she had a goal – to rid of the word “disabled” and instead use “differently abled”. In past interviews, Hikari explains her choice on tackling such a topic. “In a Japanese society, it is a big challenge to depict people with disabilities in a film. Every culture has something they don’t want to talk about. People with a disability and their sexuality is definitely not something that people would talk about in Japan”.

37 Seconds is Yuma’s coming-of-age story. At the start of the film, it is revealed that Yuma is a secret manga artist for Sayaka, a successful blogger and influencer, who passes off Yuma’s work off as her own. Yuma begins to realize her self-worth and tries to find work elsewhere – anime pornography. At the interview, Yuma is told that she must find someone to provide her sexual experience to produce a more “realistic” story with emotional depth.

Along the way, Yuma finds the true meaning of friendships and begins to live on her own. She stands up to her overprotective mother, and tells everyone that she is not a child – and that despite everything, she is capable of taking care of herself. Yuma runs away from home and discovers hidden family secrets – she finds out she has a twin. Yuma and her twin, Yuka, were born only 37 seconds apart.

This beautiful film is about the journey to loving yourself for who you are and to never stop chasing your dreams. It’s about embracing sexuality and accepting diversity in all its forms. It’s a lesson for those to never judge the worth or value of something by its outward appearances and to look beyond the surface.

HIKARI is an award-winning female writer, director, and producer. 37 Seconds has already won multiple awards such as the 69th Berlinale Audience Award and the CICAE Art Cinema Award. In the words of HIKARI herself, “disability is a state of mind”.

Learn even more about the film by visiting her website here.