'One of the many things I’ve learned is to live life in danger,' a fearful but defiant Josephat Torner opines.
'One of the many things I’ve learned is to live life in danger,' a fearful but defiant Josephat Torner opines at the beginning of In the Shadow of the Sun.
As one of Tanzania’s estimated 170,000 albinos in a country known to hunt, attack, maim and kill those afflicted with the pigmentation disorder, his words are telling. Harry Freeland’s equally harrowing and inspiring documentary demonstrates the reality behind Torner’s statement.
In 2006, the discovery of the body of a murdered albino woman shocked the nation, one of a string of deaths predicated upon witchdoctor-fuelled superstitions about the white skin of the persecuted. As terror rippled through a community already shunned and struggling with rampant discrimination, Torner took the opportunity to act, travelling to towns and villages on behalf of the Tanzanian Albino Society to campaign for the rights of his fellow sufferers. The risks of such a journey were many, but so were the potential rewards. In 2012, his quest continued to the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, with Freeland charting his courageous journey.
The remarkable Torner makes for an open and engaging subject, the empathy and compassion that aids his cross-country roadshow of advocacy also endearing him to viewers. Laying out his genuine concerns for his life as he endeavours to improve the plight of the similarly spurned, his eloquent and honest accounts to camera are as absorbing as they are affecting. Freeland also turns his lens to others – notably studious teen Vedastus Zangule, who simply wants to further his education free from the brutality of bullies. In emphasising that the efforts of the former are designed to assist the latter, the filmmaker is far from subtle, but the overt approach doesn’t lessen the impact.
Accompanied by a contemplative but never maudlin score by Samuel Sim (We Are Poets), editor Ollie Huddleston (Knuckle) deftly flits between heart-wrenching interviews and horrifying footage, crafting an eye-opening juxtaposition of human atrocity and resilience. Under Freeland’s guidance, the end product is both sensitively rendered and intimately compiled, as driven by the devastating imagery and enlightening viewpoints of both figures as they fight to change their dangerous reality.
Accordingly, although conventional in approach, In the Shadow of the Sun excels as an awareness-raising effort, with the close focus on the hard-working, heroic forms of Torner and Zangule heightening its resonance. Both potent and poignant, the film combines the tender with the tragic for moving and mobilising effect.
In the Shadow of the Sun
Director: Harry Freeland
Tanzania / UK, 2012, 88 mins
Human Rights Arts and Film Festival
Melbourne: 9 – 23 May
Sydney: 28 – 30 May
Alice Springs: 31 May – 2 June
Canberra: 3 – 5 June
Brisbane: 4 – 6 June
Perth: 4 – 6 June
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