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As the days go by, I become more and more unwavering in my belief surrounding the power and value of perspective. I find it not necessarily to be a thing one strives to achieve; it is, variantly, gained in fits and starts -- often accidentally, coincidentally. Words like "fate" and "providence" can be thrown around in such instances, as well, if one so chooses.
In either event, it can be comfortably concluded that even the smallest amount of perspective is enough to irrevocably change one's life. The light bulb cannot be switched off, in other words. Perspective inspires -- forces, really -- that step forward that can never be repealed. Once one's worldview has been altered, isn't one more-than-challenged to respond and react accordingly? Continuing down the same path, unbothered, can surely be removed as a viable and realistic option.
And as such, I have been jarred out of my own particular orbit by Keren Shayo's 2014 documentary, the elemental Sounds of Torture. We often joke about "First World Problems" -- about the vapidity that seeps into privileged existence -- but I can't think of anything, in recent memory, that has managed to drive the concept home as relentlessly as this film does. I left the theatre contemplating the varying levels of respect and reverence that people's lives around the world are afforded; I left lamenting the injustice behind the vast breadth of this spectrum.
Sounds of Torture illustrates the plight of Eritrean refugees as they fight to seek and achieve better lives in Israel. It is an illustration fraught with a suffocating bleakness; characters throughout the film -- people -- strive against the monsters of hopelessness and savagery, all for a freedom that may never materialize.
We are introduced to a people under siege from all angles. They flee the cold-blooded military dictatorship that strangles their native land of Eritrea, where everyone, save for pregnant women, are forced to join the armed forces. If, on the off chance, they have managed to make it to Israel, they are branded as "infiltrators" -- illegal immigrants -- and face homelessness, unemployment, and abject poverty. However, in their attempt to traverse the Sinai Desert to get this supposed "promised land", many are kidnapped by Bedouin smugglers, and tortured incessantly while their captors attempt to ransom them back to their families. Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children have fallen or gone missing due to this perilous undertaking. The world continues, unabated, as these refugees are preyed upon in silence.
The film revolves around one Meron Estefanos, a Swedish-Eritrean radio host who vehemently inserts herself into the center of this maelstrom of violence. From her home in Stockholm, she produces a weekly program where she communicates with Eritrean hostages, their families, and their captors in an attempt to broker their release and freedom. She spends countless hours ingesting the most horrific stories, coming face-to-face with the worst humanity has to offer. After years of strife, after assisting in securing the release of dozens upon dozens of Eritreans, she travels to Israel & the Sinai Desert to assuage and experience these tribulations first-hand.
It is a film that devotedly resonates with some of the deepest forms of pain; one is deeply affected without having any say in the matter. We found ourselves tearing up as we witnessed how the unabashed brutality of the Sinai Desert destroyed spirits and families alike; we found ourselves tearing up as we witnessed these spirits struggle mightily to ultimately prevail and only occasionally, heartbreakingly, succeed. Finally, we found ourselves tearing up upon the realization that international policies have encouraged this to continue, silently, to this day.
At least we can draw little comfort from the actuality that, with Sounds of Torture, this silence has been broken. Clocking in at an efficient 58 minutes, the film rings out loud and clear, bathing us in a cacophony of inescapable testimony. Much like, I can only imagine, was the case for the organizers of the Toronto Black Film Festival [@TOBlackFilmFest], one will be compelled to share this story with others after viewing this film.
So knock yourself out of your orbit, take that irrevocable step forward, and experience Sounds of Torture. Being exposed to extreme injustice can certainly be a trying endeavour, but one must keep in mind that such discomfort is hardly even a drop in the bucket compared to what others face on the daily. I was taken outside of myself, personally, and the sudden perspective changed my life. Not sure one can, ultimately, ask for much more from a movie.