Film Review: ‘Blinded by the Light’

I’m not big Bruce Springsteen fan, but am a big fan of the film ‘Bend It Like Beckham,’ which Gurinder Chadha directed so I was definitely going to see ‘Blinded by the Light’ where Chadha is credited directing and being a writer on the film. In my opinion, the film does not disappoint.

The film is about:

“… the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in the town of Luton, England, in 1987. Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But when a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful lyrics. As Javed discovers a cathartic outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to find the courage to express himself in his own unique voice.

Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, “Blinded by the Light” was directed by Gurinder Chadha from a screenplay written by Manzoor, Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges.”

I had first starting hearing about this film only when I started reading more about the film, ‘The Farewell,’ and that ‘Blinded by the Light’ was also a Sundance favorite and was coming out in August.

I could really relate to Javed at times, with his frustrations of his family’s circumstances and his immigrant father’s expectations. What was enlightening was seeing the depiction of an economically challenged Britain in the late 1980s and the racism of the then-popular Nationalist Front – connotations of modern Brexit sentiment of today. Of course, having grown up the Eighties, the music beyond Springsteen’s was nostalgic.

That said, not being a huge Springsteen, I really loved how the film embraced his songs to express Javed’s emotions – especially the first scene where he discovers Springsteen and the lyrics that express his frustrations of the world and his seemingly unattainable dreams. Made me think I should listen to more Springsteen.

On another note, it’s simply quite amazing to think that there are two British films released this year in the United States starring British Southeast Asians in leading roles, with ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Blinded by the Light.’

The backstory as to how Springsteen came to give his support for this film is an interesting story as well:

Like similar homage “Yesterday,” where a struggling Indian musician in London stumbles upon a world without the Beatles, “Blinded by the Light” is a paean to the power — lyrically and musically — of Springsteen, who might as well live in a parallel universe but communicates in this one with the movie’s writer hero …

“Turned out ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ was one of [Bruce’s wife] Patti Scialfa’s favorite films,” says Chadha. “I think Bruce was touched that we approached his music from a unique cultural point-of-view.”

Worried about adding Bruce’s music to the film, Chadha was encouraged by the Springsteen camp to begin writing the screenplay and ‘something would be figured out,’ given the film’s modest budget.  “They liked the idea,” she says. “We tried to make the music work for our story rather than exploit it.  Picking the songs was quite a forensic task. I only used the ones which captured the character’s journey. I set out to make a movie with integrity, that would live up to that legacy — not only Bruce’s music but what he stands for, what he represents. I had to stop seeing him as a rock star, but someone who wrote these songs for my movie.””

CBS Morning News also does a nice profile (and background on the film) about the co-writer and inspiration for the film, writer Sarfraz Manzoor:

It makes me wonder if there’s something about the British film industry that is more receptive to Asian American film leads? Then again, I recently heard that John Cho’s ‘Searching’ did so well, that there’s going to be a sequel (with different characters)

Maybe the film industry only cares about one color = green, the color of [U.S.] money.

At the time of this writing, ‘Blinded by the Light’ has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% – I recommend you see the film!

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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