out of Five
Running time: 88
An eye-opening and awareness-raising film documenting the cruel treatment of albinism in Tanzania, In the Shadow of the Sun is an emotionally gripping and truly harrowing documentary with an inspiring message of courage and strength.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Harry Freeland, In the Shadow of the Sun explores the horrific treatment of albinism in Tanzania and follows one man’s courageous attempt to change it all. Filmed over six years, the documentary shows Josephat Torner, an albino rights campaigner, as he visits Ukerewe Island in Tanzania to confront the communities about the many violent deaths and attacks on albinos (in East Africa, many believe that an arm, the blood or even the life of an albino results in good luck and fortune) in an effort to change their superstitious beliefs.
On the island, Josephat meets Vedastus, a 15 year old albino who’s been brutally bullied out of school and whose mother was told to kill him when he was born, and quickly becomes his mentor, encouraging the teenager’s dreams to return to education and stand up against the unfair discrimination.
Sensitively directed and highly engaging, In the Shadow of the Sun makes for both an absorbing and disturbing watch, thanks to Freeland’s determination to stare an upsetting truth directly in the face. Merging harrowing news footage of murdered albinos with present-day shots and interviews, Freeland creates an intimate and wholly gripping film, which will inform, enlighten and shock with its detailing of albinism treatment in Tanzania.
As he embarks on a brave journey to change the depiction of albinos, Josephat Torner (who like many other albinos emotionally prepares to never see his family again every time he walks out the door) is an inspiration to watch and the interviews with various family members provide additional enlightening viewpoints. In fact, the only clear faults with this documentary are the occasional grammatical mistakes within the Swahili/English translated subtitles, which, if it wasn’t for the gripping story taking place, could have been very off-putting.
The most inspiring thing about this documentary (aside from Josephat’s admirable courage and strength) is the refreshing attitude of the albinism community as a whole. Upbeat and constantly looking at the positives, the subjects of this documentary never once try to feel sorry for themselves as they discuss their horrific ordeals. One little girl, in particular, is an inspiration to watch. Discussing the terrible day when bullies cut off her right arm, she’s far from self-pitying and takes strength from friends, who encourage her to make light of her tragic everyday situation. Finally, the strong edit and subtle soundtrack fit perfectly with the film’s mood, tone and pace.
In the Shadow of the Sun is heartrending and emotionally devastating; the stories depicted in this highly engaging and effective documentary will shock, alarm you and bring you to tears. Highly recommended.