Directed by Edward Lovelace (“The Possibilities Are Endless”), the film is in competition at the festival’s The Grierson Award for documentaries.
The documentary, filmed over four years, follows Lawand Hamad Amin, who spent his early years in Iraq unable to hear or communicate. His profound deafness meant he could not learn language, and with no access to a deaf education, Lawand grew isolated and trapped inside himself.
His parents and brother decided to take Lawand on an epic and bewildering journey across Europe to seek refuge in England. At a specialist deaf school in Derby, Lawand starts learning British Sign Language. For the first time in his life he begins to understand the world around him. In order to overcome what he’s been through, he will need to articulate who Lawand really is.
When the family faces the prospect of being deported from the U.K., it is Lawand who has to stand up in court and communicate why they need to stay. The languages in the film are English, Kurdish and British Sign Language.
“I always tried to think – what film would Lawand want? What would make him most proud? For him, a film in the mould of a classic friendship narrative – films like ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Good Will Hunting,’ films which deal with big themes but are routed in friendship, in the bond and connection that true friends bring… That’s the type of story that Lawand would say most represents him and his journey,” Lovelace said. “Once I realised that – I could really see the end of the film, see where we needed to get too thematically – a true celebration of finding your people, and finding your place in the world.”
“As a hearing filmmaker, I am learning British Sign Language and work closely with a team of deaf filmmakers, who help me to ensure that inclusion at all levels of production are a priority. I am still blown away by the emails that I received from the teachers after our filming blocks. During one visit they asked me to take a class with Lawand and his classmates, something that has stuck with me ever since,” Lovelace added.
“It was one of the biggest honors of my life to be let in by Lawand, his family and school, and to be trusted and empowered to tell their story. The pride and joy they felt when they first watched the film – that’s the biggest sense of achievement for a filmmaker, to get across their truth in a cinematic way.”
The film is produced by Fleur Nieddu, Sam Arnold, Beyan Taher, Neil Andrews, Marisa Clifford and Lovelace and executive produced by Thomas Benski, Tim O’Shea, Diene Petterle, Lisa Marie Russo, Kwesi Dickson and Isabel Freer.
The BFI London Film Festival runs Oct. 5-16.
Watch the clip here:
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