In 1987 America, both Michael and Janet Jackson were dominating the radio airwaves along with George Michael and U2. But, in Luton, a young lad from Pakistan filled his days with Rubik’s cube and writing ‘random thoughts’ in his journal ranging from politics to Reaganomics to his traditional Pakistani Dad. A Dad who believed in order for his son to succeed that he needed to look for the ‘Jews’ in his class and to stay away from girls.
Titled from a song on Springsteen’s 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J – Blinded by The Light infuses humor into the true life story of Sarfraz Manzoor, whose Greetings from Bury Park book was the basis of this music filled and Hayley Atwell and Rob Brydon co-staring film. With a backdrop of racism of the 90’s ranging from graffiti laden property to little white boys urinating through a mailbox door slot, you understand quickly whyJavid (Viveik Kalra) wants to leave Luton on the first thing smoking. Like his soon-to-be idol Springsteen says, “…born at the wrong time…wrong town…wrong family.” However, when Javid begins at yet another new school, his life is forever changed when a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Gurinder Chadha, the director behind 2002’s “Bend it Like Beckham,” really knows how to capture the heart and spirit of teens and bring them to life on-screen with infectious energy. Let’s just say there was a lot of toe taping and mouthing lyrics during this one. Her cinematic vision to splatter the lyrics across the screen as if we were glimpsing into Javid’s journal is brilliant and really aids in driving his plot along.
Not only does Chadha address the racism in Britain, the political disdain for Margaret Thatcher’s third time, the music of Springsteen, but she manages to shed a light onto the Pakistani culture. Things like ‘daytimer’ where young teens go to what we would call a ‘rave’ in America, but during the day. She also illustrates that while parents can be our harshest critics, they only do so because they want more for us than what was available to them at that age..
Blinded By the Light is easily the feel good film of the 2019 Sundance Festival season and left me feeling a little more optimistic about this world we are navigating in, as well as, reminding me of why we call Springsteen “The Boss.” It was rumored that Springsteen would actually show up in Park City for the premiere, but alas he sent a video message stating he didn’t want his presence to upstage the film. Honestly, Bruce, I don’t think Sarfraz, Gurinder nor the entire Eccles theatre would agree with you…but we understand.