Blinded by the Light (2019)
Eight on the Zoom discussion led by Anne Goldstein on Blinded By the Light
"Was Blinded By the Light just a feel good film?" as indeed we all left the cinema feeling uplifted.
The 80's of England could be recalled by everyone on the discussion (bar one American) as a time of blatant racism. It was mentioned that the film's director, Gurinder Chadha, was concerned about the rise of ethnic discrimination in contemporary UK times due to Brexit (the film was released in 2019). Set in 1987 Britain, this semi-autobiographical film presents shocking treatment of the Pakistani community in Luton.
The Socio Political message was the main area of discussion alongside the homage to Bruce Springsteen as a lyric writer/performer and the inspiration to our main character Javed who is introduced to The Boss' music through his newfound friend Roops.
The format is familiar, "Where do I fit in?" seen as the teenager looks for a place to sit in the canteen. Javed's struggle is not only with cultural identity (from the Dancing in the Dark lyrics: I check my look in the mirror I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face) but also in navigating within his oppressive family culture. "We are Pakistanis", says the father. "We are British", says the son. Several in the discussion group have experience with teaching in the Muslim community and could relate to the insularity and protectiveness as presented in the film. It was noted that this was an accurate portrayal of the time, that there is power in family structure, that the preservation of respect for the community, children, school and family is an important quality. We asked if things have changed. Are things better? Bruce Springsteen has not allowed his music to be used for political campaigns (other than the most recent Don Winslow film). Blinded By The Light gave us an opportunity to hear and understand the message of Bruce Springsteen's songs, and to appreciate that some songs we know and love performed by other groups are actually Springsteen's. The mechanism of applying the lyrics in whirling, falling, animated lines of text on the screen alongside Javed as the words enter his consciousness helped us appreciate the strength of Springsteen's communication through song and music.
We shared a few stories of seeing friends who are in minority demographics suffer from some stranger hurtling abusive, hateful words. Javed's final speech, the neighbour Mr. Evan's empathy and heroic solidarity, Matt and Emma's acceptance of Javed for who he is as a person, and the support of an interested teacher, all positive characters who fortified us for an evening's viewing of a Feel Good film.