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“Each of the Remembered Hoovers Made a Different Sound”: Jerry Rothwell | The Reason I Jump

A still from The Reason I Jump by Jerry Rothwell (courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Whether capturing or creating a world, the objects onscreen tell as much of a story as the people within it. Whether sourced or accidental, insert shot or background detail, what prop or piece of set decoration do you find particularly integral to your film? What story does it tell?

My object(s) would be two vacuum cleaners (hoovers) vibrantly etched in the childhood memories of Joss, an autistic teenager in the film. The hoovers don’t appear in the film, and probably no longer exist, but they’re frequently present and talked about. Their colors—one red and one black—become a verbal game that’s bounced between Joss and his parents and support workers: 

“Is it a red hoover?” 

“No, it’s a black hoover.” 

“Is it a black hoover?”

“No, it’s a red hoover.”

Naoki Higashida, the teenage author of the book on which the film is based, describes this kind of interaction as “like playing a game of catch with a ball.” For Joss, each of the remembered hoovers made a different sound, and this has become a reference point for other kinds of sound he encounters—music, electricity. They’ve become a way of making sense of the world, and of sharing a feeling or a desire for interaction with others.

Sundance Responses 2020

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