Berlin: Hikari's '37 Seconds' Wins Panorama Audience Award

37 Seconds Still 2 - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Berlinale

The story of the sexual and creative awakening of a wheelchair-bound woman with cerebral palsy won over ordinary film fans in Berlin.

First-time Japanese director Hikari's 37 Seconds, an honest and unflinching look at disability, has won the audience award for best movie in the Berlin film festival's Panorama section.

For her debut feature, Hikari chose the challenging story of exploring the sexual awakening of a woman with cerebral palsy.

Disabled first-time actress Mei Kayama stars, and shines, as Yuma, a wheelchair-bound woman who struggles to break free from a smothering mother, and a childhood friend turned exploitative Internet star, in the pursuit of her dream of becoming a manga artist. The title refers to the length of time Yuma was unable to breathe immediately after her birth, leading to her developmental difficulties.

The Panorama Audience Awards are voted on by the some 500,000 film fans who buy a ticket to attend a screening at the Berlin festival. Second place this year went to Miroslav Terzic's drama Stitches, about Serbia's illegal adoption market, which earlier won the art house cinema association's Europa Cinemas Label Prize.

Best documentary went to Talking About Trees, director Suhaib Gasmelbari's chronicle of the demise of Sudanese cinema and the group of retired directors trying to revive their country’s love of film.

Hassan Fazili's Midnight Traveler, which documents the director's flight — along with his wife and two children — from Afghanistan to Europe, all shot on mobile phones, took second prize in the documentary section.