Three women in vastly different stages of life confront a moment of personal transformation, shedding the burden of expectation and the weight of the past to step forward tentatively into a future filled with new possibilities. Some might recognize this as the basic premise of Humberto Solás’ classic Cuban epic Lucía (1968), and it’s no accident that a screening of this film unites the three female protagonists of Jennifer Redfearn’s latest documentary, Tocando la luz (Touch the Light). But the screening of Lucía in question is perhaps not what most would expect: it is a special event put on by Havana’s blind cinema club.
Indeed, the three women chronicled in Redfearn’s documentary are all blind, but more importantly, they are women confronted with difficult decisions of personal empowerment. Mily is an overprotected and homebound 20-something who dreams of starting her own family, Lis is a talented and successful singer who doubts whether the stage is truly her calling, and finally, Margarita is an elderly widow who struggles to begin life anew for fear of betraying the memories of those she loved.
Tocando la luz is the first time the American-born Redfearn trains her eye on Cuba, but her previous works, including the Oscar-nominated short Sun Come Up, have shown her predilection for diverse cultures and locales. A clip from the film, in which we see Mily attending a baseball game for the blind, showcases Tocando la luz’s impeccable cinematography and Redfearn’s fluid use of long takes. The film understandably adopts a highly sensitive sound design to reproduce the world as experienced by her three protagonists, who it seems are never treated as victims of thei
Redfearn’s shoutout to Lucía is a small but important gesture, rooting the film in Cuba’s own cinematic tradition, and inviting us to view the struggle of these women in the context of a very different Cuba.