Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2014: In the Shadow of the Sun
By: Addison Wylie
I find myself in a predicament trying to review Harry Freeland’s documentary In the Shadow of the Sun. Prior to the film, I was oblivious to the subject matter and found myself perplexed by the harsh reality that stalks Tanzanian albinos.
In the Shadow of the Sun is a perfectly fine documentary, but I keep feeling as if I’m rating Freeman’s doc on the content represented rather than the film the material resides in. That isn’t the fault of Freeland’s wholehearted filmmaking, however. The subject is just that powerful.
After a rumour circulates claiming that albinos are a rare form of future fortune and wealth, impoverished individuals or those simply seeking a good luck charm set out to retrieve parts of albinos to keep – resulting in nasty slaughters and diminishing hope for those born differently. Besides the grisly tragedies, Tanzanian albinos are viewed as useless people who should be shunned.
You can see how it’d be easy to get sucked into this distressing situation, and shift focus away from the film itself. Fortunately, audiences will still be able to appreciate In the Shadow of the Sun’s picturesque cinematography and the valuable minimalist filmmaking.
It’s important to note that Freeland doesn’t shy away from any details. That description of the doc’s rawness shouldn’t entice you, but instead warn those who are faint of heart. Movie goers will see the lengths others will go through to obtain a piece of “luck”. Although, the uncensored look is helpful, these images are some of the most graphic content I’ve ever seen and will undoubtably make audiences queasy during their sympathizing.
The film’s core centres around Josephat Torner, an outspoken albino who wants to bring awareness to the effect this terrible rumour is having on his life and those around him. He bravely takes to the road and speaks to multiple groups about the issue. He gets them involved by asking questions and hearing them out before stating his opinion on the matter. Smartly, Freeman steps back and lets his camera roll on Torner and the crowds during these passionate talks.
The doc is a little too long as it reaches the homestretch, and – understandably – becomes a bit of a broken record as Freeman tries to figure out how to make the main message take forms that offer variety to his project.
Otherwise, In the Shadow of the Sun is clear, concise, and a mannerly marvel. Much like Josephat, Harry Freeman has made an meritable documentary successfully enlightening audiences around the world of these unfair circumstances.
Catch In the Shadow of the Sun at Toronto’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival on Friday, February 28 at 6:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.