Breaking Barriers: “Can You See Us” Shines Light on Albinism Stigma
Zambia’s film industry makes an impactful debut on the global stage with “Can You See Us,” a poignant exploration of albinism stigma directed by Kenny Mumba. This Netflix gem, which premiered on Aug. 27, illuminates a seldom-discussed societal issue while weaving a compelling narrative that leaves a mark.
At the heart of this cinematic journey is Joseph, a young boy with albinism, born into a world that often refuses to see beyond his condition. The film introduces us to his parents, whose initial disappointment sets the stage for a powerful exploration of prejudice and ignorance. It’s a raw and emotional opening that sets the tone for the film’s unapologetic examination of societal bias.
Joseph’s journey is one of relentless resilience. Rejected by his father and ostracized by society, he navigates a world that is quick to judge and slow to accept. Thabo Kalamba’s portrayal of Joseph is a standout performance, capturing the essence of a young boy determined to defy the odds. While the film’s beginning feels somewhat mechanical in terms of acting, it steadily finds its rhythm, allowing the characters to evolve with the story.
“Can You See Us” effectively shines a spotlight on society’s ignorance and prejudice, most notably through Joseph’s parents. It’s a challenging yet necessary aspect of the film that forces viewers to confront their own biases. The movie doesn’t hold back in depicting the internalized discrimination that can exist within even those closest to us. It’s a stark reminder of the power of societal norms and how they can shape our perceptions.
What sets “Can You See Us” apart is its portrayal of Joseph not as a victim but as a hero of his own narrative. The film beautifully captures his transformation from a timid boy to a confident young man who refuses to let society define his worth. It’s a journey of self-discovery and empowerment that resonates deeply with the audience.
Rick Joaquim’s cinematography adds an extra layer of depth to the film. His creative shots and framing amplify the emotional impact of each scene, making us feel like silent witnesses to Joseph’s struggles and triumphs. While the film initially feels a bit mechanical in terms of cinematography, it gradually finds its visual groove.
The film’s score, punctuating the action with sweet melodies, adds a poignant layer to the narrative. It not only humanizes the struggles of individuals with albinism but also enhances the overall viewing experience. Music becomes a powerful means of expression for Joseph, symbolizing his journey from isolation to acceptance.
However, “Can You See Us” does have its weaknesses. One notable issue is continuity. At times, the film struggles to maintain a consistent flow of events. This can be slightly disorienting for the viewer, as scenes appear disjointed and abrupt transitions disrupt the storytelling. While these continuity issues don’t entirely overshadow the film’s strengths, they do create moments of confusion that detract from the overall experience.
Another challenge that “Can You See Us” faces is its tendency to veer into the realm of a musical. While the film’s focus on Joseph’s love for music is integral to the narrative, there are instances where it feels like the story takes a backseat to musical performances. While these sequences are visually captivating and highlight Thabo Kalamba’s talents, they occasionally disrupt the film’s pacing and detract from the core message.
Also, as much as “Can You See Us” excels in portraying Joseph’s journey, its resolution feels somewhat rushed. The climax at a concert hints at reconciliation between Joseph and his father, Kennedy, but it lacks the depth and development needed to fully satisfy. This aspect of the film could have benefited from a more nuanced exploration.
“Can You See Us” is a compelling cinematic exploration of albinism stigma that makes a bold statement. While it falters in some areas, particularly in its hasty resolution, its emotional resonance, and the powerful portrayal of Joseph’s journey shine through.
This Netflix debut is more than just a movie; it’s a call for empathy and understanding, reminding us that the power of self-belief can transcend societal prejudices. “Can You See Us” marks a promising debut for Zambia in the world of filmmaking, offering a universal message of hope and acceptance.
Release Date: August 27, 2023
Runtime: 1 hour 49 minutes, and 20 seconds
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Kenny Mumba
Cast: Kondwani Elliot Zulu, Kangwa Chileshe, Ruth Jule, George Sikazwe, Thabo Kaamba, Grace Rumsey, Chipego M. Mwiinga, and Marie Ndhlovu