With her daughter Yoshiko diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and her husband overseas serving in the military, Saki Omura is finding it harder and harder to cope. Too ashamed to burden others and too proud to ask for help, Saki faces the now-daunting task of giving her daughter the best life possible.

Credits

  • Brian Blum: Director
  • Brian Blum: Writer
  • Kent Morita: Writer
  • David E. M. Maire: Producer
  • Bryan Benitez: Producer
  • Ryan Beharry: Producer
  • Saori Goda: Key Cast, “Saki”
  • Mei-Lin Hosang: Key Cast, “Yoshiko”
  • Yoshi Amao: Key Cast, “Hideyo”
  • Rika Akanishi: Key Cast, “Kazuko”
  • Amy Hoerler: Key Cast, “Cheryl”

Specifications

  • Project Type: Short
  • Genres: Family, Disability, Drama
  • Runtime: 15 minutes
  • Completion Date: September 24, 2018
  • Production Budget: 30,000 USD
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Country of Filming: United States
  • Shooting Format: Digital
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Film Color: Color

Screenings / Awards

  • Miami Film Festival Miami
    United States
    March 3, 2019
    World Premiere
    Zeno Mountain Award Winner

Director Statement

To graduate from my high school, students were required to do 12 hours of community service a year, or 48 total hours. I volunteered with an organization called The Friendship Circle, which pairs up volunteers and special needs children for social visits, to provide recurring social connection for kids who struggle to establish personal connections on their own. By graduation, I had spent over 200 hours of community service with The Friendship Circle.

Another constant in my high school life was Japanese language. I studied Japanese for four years under the same teacher, Mieko Avello — who I called “Sensei.” Sensei was that exceptional teacher whose class you looked forward to, who created a community where students wanted to learn, and who motivated us to go above and beyond in the classroom. Words cannot describe how much Sensei’s students admired her.

Nowadays, I’m out of college, in a serious long-term relationship, and thinking about my future. My partner and I occasionally talk about whether or not we want kids, and I’m reminded of my time volunteering for The Friendship Circle. I’m reminded of how grateful parents were to have a young person there who understood their situation and empathized with them; someone to give them a short break every now and then. I’m also reminded of the prevalence of disability in my life: I have a cousin on the autism spectrum, a neighbor with severe physical and neurological impairment, a childhood friend on the autism spectrum, and a sibling with sensory issues who was misdiagnosed as autistic.

The prospect of parenting is scary enough, and the idea of parenting a child with special needs can be overwhelming to even think about. I witnessed the struggles first hand, and I was both fascinated and in awe of the unwavering and unconditional love displayed by parents caring for special needs children. I knew I wanted to explore that further in a film.

And so, the research phase began. I started volunteering again, and travelled back to my hometown to interview the parents of kids I had visited for The Friendship Circle. During this time, I decided to stop by my high school and visit my Sensei. I told her about my plans for this film, and to my surprise she told me that, in addition to being an astounding educator, she too was an autism parent. After spending hours speaking with her about her life and experiences with her now-adult daughter, I knew that this was the story I wanted to tell. I am honored and grateful that she trusted me with her story, and I am excited to share it with the world: the story of a remarkable and great woman. The story of my Sensei.