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Blinded by the light (12A)

With Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman and Aaron Phagura Directed by Gurinder Chadha Bend it Films, 117 Minutes

Watching this film reminded me of two things. A Saturday in central Birmingham; my wife and I had gone to watch the film Chariots of Fire and then popped into the city centre.

It was 1981, the year of the race riots; it was as if all hell was let loose; we had to hide in a department store that locked its doors behind us. We were experiencing darkness on the edge of town.

This film set in 1980s Luton has as its backdrop the racial tensions of that era. The main character Javed, is a young Pakistani man struggling to fit in a white dominated society, and running through the film are themes of  identity, prejudice, place and belonging.  In the past three decades so much has changed in our thinking about diversity and inclusion; yet so much remains unchanged. We are not a colour-blind society.

The second thing that this film reminded me of was the power of music to capture and reshape our imaginations, to help us find our voice and unfold an alternative soundtrack for our lives,

In this instance, it is the music of Bruce Springsteen that comes to the rescue. Someone at school tells Javed: “Bruce is a direct line to all that’s true in this world”.

Jared finds parallels between Springsteen’s music and his own background of exclusion, misunderstanding, a tense relationship with his father and the economic hardship of lost jobs, hopes and dreams. The film relates how the music helps Javed find his own voice as a writer; this is a gradual and painful experience but ultimately it leads to a “promised land” of sorts.

The film is based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s Greetings from Bury Park; the book relates the true story that forms the basis of the film. It’s a feelgood film but it reminds us that feeling good is an experience that is hard to come by!

Christians should watch this film to feel some of the pain of racism and the power of a fresh soundtrack to transform a life. Maybe we could capture the vision of having the human touch that helps people connect with God and come to the Father’s house.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle in West Sussex


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