Monday, May 6, 2013

In the Shadow of the Sun

Having just seen one movie about the inherited disorder thalassemia, Blood Relative, I then went to another movie about albinism.  Albinism, like thalassemia, occurs when a child inherits two recessive genes from parents which result in their body producing no melanin.

Being totally white in equatorial Africa makes you stand out, to say the least. And the equatorial sun is especially hard on people who suffer from sun sensitivity because of the lack of melanin.  Then there's the persecution they face being labelled as a curse or sign of bad luck, resulting in taunt, bullying and beating.

What could be worse for an albino than being considered a sign of bad luck?  Having Tanzanian witch doctors spread the myth that body parts of albinos in magic potions can bring good luck.  This leads to a rash of albino killings and mutilations.  Josephat Torner, a Tanzanian albino undertakes a 4 year journey through villages of Tanzania, delivering the message that albinos are humans just like everyone and that the witch doctor's claims are false.

In the Shadow of the Sun follows Josephat's journey and the efforts (ultimately successful) of another young boy desperate to find a school that will accept him.  The movie also shows clips of President Kikweke speaking out against the killings and beefing up the police response.  In fact, Josephat himself is almost abducted in the middle of the night from his hotel room, saved only by the timely arrival of the police as he's being pushed into a car.

This film is linked with Blood Relative by more than its subject of a genetic disorder.  Just as reliance on religion and praying to the goddess was delaying treatment for a thalassemia patient in Blood Relative, here too belief in religion by people uneducated in the true explanation behind albinism causes them great pain.  It's such a cliche to say it, but education is so important in moving toward a more humane and tolerant world.

Good movie.  Sad, but with shoots of optimism.

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