In the Shadow of the Sun
A filmmaker shines a light on the profound danger of albinism in Tanzania
by Sabine Zetteler
In November 2012 we were invited to a small preview of a very special documentary entitled "In the Shadow of the Sun" at London's infamous Frontline Club, a place dedicated to independent news. Shocking, engaging and visually stunning, the film made a lasting impression. As such we were delighted to see that it was selected for Curzon Soho as part of The Human Rights Watch Film Festival which launched this week in London.
"In the Shadow of the Sun" tells the story of two inspirational men, Josephat and Vedastus—born in different generations but both albino—trapped in intense struggle amid a community of conflicting beliefs between witchcraft and science in Tanzania. They face a daily reality of sticks, stones and verbal abuse, often described as "white ghosts" and treated as though they're the devil incarnate.
Unbeknown to most of us, Tanzania has a huge problem with discrimination against their albino population. Taken as truth, the far-fetched superstition has managed to convince some to commit murder and dismember innocent men, women and children and sell off their body parts for vulgar sums of cash in the hope of personal wealth and good fortune.
Josephat and Vedastus' journey was captured by director Harry Freeland over a period of six years. Combining appalling descriptions and footage of violence and murder with subtle, stripped-back cinematic visions, the film follows the two men as they try to work out how escape the physical and psychological tyranny they face every day of their lives, while awake and even more terrifyingly, as they sleep.
Josephat, the elder of the two men (Vedastus is just 15 years old), articulates his fears, beliefs and aspirations with a cheerful clarity that betrays the chronic anxiety of someone constantly terrorized. Guided by Freeland's exceptional capacity for creating truly emotional, unsentimental films, after just 84 minutes you become an important part of their story and their human right to live in peace, just as they are.
The film premieres 15 March at the The Human Rights Watch Festival, with a second screening 21 March 2013.
Images courtesy of "In the Shadow of the Sun"