Overview: The lives and stories of three blind citizens in Havana, Cuba are documented. Red Antelope Films; 2015; Not Rated; 71 minutes.
Touch the Light: Mileibys Perez Grillo, Margarita Vega Laza, and Alealis “Lis” Rivero Quevedo are three incredibly different women with a common thread, they are blind. Mily, in her mid-twenties, seeks domestic bliss as a housewife and mother. Her boyfriend, an inspirational force in her life, encourages her to attain her dreams, despite the difficulties she will face as a blind mother. Margarita is a spirited older woman who was involved in the revolutionary militia of Cuba. Lis is appearingly sheltered, however, is expressive in her singing voice. It is through this talent that she brings income to her family. All three women living in the blind community of Havana have their own take on how they should live their lives.
Havana: With the political unrest between the U.S. and Cuba, traveling to Havana is not an easy trip, unless one wants to be accosted by the TSA. The life and culture of Havana radiates from Tocando la Luz. The music, the supportive community, the streets and architecture, and the mysticism that is often transplanted to their Floridian neighbor, all create an atmosphere of learning through observation.
To See, Touch, and Hear: Director and producer Jennifer Redfearn maintains a certain level of symmetry between all three stories; each woman’s words having a similar tone and escalating altogether at emotional points. One does not overshadow the other. Off the top of my head, I can only recall two movies that feature a blind protagonist: Ray and Daredevil, three movies, if you count the private teacher in Beastly. According to the World Health Organization, it was estimated in 2014 that 39 million people are blind and 90% live in low-income settings. Redfearn targeted the main population of the visually-impaired and provided a glimpse as to the comfort in having a guiding companion, but also the conflicts each woman endures as she fights for independence, whether its with her parents or internally. One particular scene is visually simplistic, but it was not so much as what you saw, but what you heard and wanted to feel. It’s raining. Lis is listening to the rain on the roof and feeling the drops in her hands. The scene is long enough to the point where you uncontrollably close your eyes to concentrate on the rhythm of the rain and to stretch out your own hand.
One of the most prominent historical components is Margarita’s involvement with the revolution, a service-member herself in a special squadron of blind soldiers. Her pride is interlaced in her voice as her hands trace the familiar patches once adorning her uniform. One of her other cherished treasures is her military cover. She knows she cannot see her reflection as she adjusts it; she admits it. In her moment of reflection, it appears she can see.
Final Thoughts: Independence is an effort that’s difficulty is multiplied by sight. The women of Tocando la Luz are determined and outwardly confident despite their private insecurities. It is a film to be seen or heard.