Name Me Lawand: a considerately crafted, impressionistic documentary

A young deaf Kurdish boy named Lawand Hamad Amin is filmed over four years as he learns sign language and adjusts to life in Derby in this heartening yet politically-charged film.

6 July 2023

By Nick Bradshaw

Name Me Lawand (2022)
Sight and Sound

From Mat Whitecross’s Moving to Mars (2009), a study of two Burmese refugee families resettling in Sheffield, to recent fictional evocations of immigrant dislocation such as Ben Sharrock’s Limbo and Remi Weekes’s His House (both 2020), plenty of recent films have explored the truism voiced by the protagonist’s father in Name Me Lawand: arriving in the UK in search of sanctuary is “not the end of the journey, just the beginning”.

Where Edward Lovelace’s film about a young Kurdish refugee in Derby shuffles the deck is in the nature of Lawand’s identity and condition: born profoundly deaf, he was consigned to incapacity and isolation in his poorer homeland; at six, his family has brought him to the UK to find sign-language education, to help him communicate, live and grow. Here, the challenges of exile intersect with other forms of difference and exclusion. As Lawand’s elder brother Rawa tells us, in a prologue cut to outer-space imagery, Lawand feels he belongs on another planet.

The film gives us an inside-out portrait of Lawand, especially early on: close-up, shallow-focus camerawork emulates the dampened, muffled sound space he lives in; cut-in phone-camera flashbacks gesture to his trauma. Until now, Lawand has been pressured to conform: even his parents want him to speak to fit in. At the Royal School for the Deaf Derby he learns British Sign Language; a winning teacher and budding friendships draw him out of his shell. But his progress is delicate, and when news filters in that the Home Office wants to return him to Iraq, Lawand is burdened with banishing a state’s doubts about his potential, on top of upholding his own fragile self-confidence.

Structured in seven pithy, thematically titled chapters (‘Discovery’, ‘Courage’, ‘ Truth’, ‘Faith’ etc), the film is carefully, considerately crafted, mediating between subject and viewer through a language of elegant impressionism and collaborative expression rather than more imposing forms of documentary encounter (four editors worked on the rich sensory weave).

Viewers – at least those of us different from Lawand – grow into his shoes, approaching an understanding of his needs and outlook. For Lawand, a breakthrough moment is a journey to a rally for BSL rights in London: amid placards saying “Hear your deaf voice roar”, he finally feels belonging, on what, Rawa concludes, may after all be his “perfect” planet. What with the gentle, low drone-shots of Derbyshire wheat-fields, and soft-pedalled piano blanketing the soundtrack, the film’s later style, as Lawand blossoms, does occasionally veer towards butter-ad rhetoric. But it’s hard to think of telling his story – heartening, yet insistent – any way but softly.

 ► Name me Lawand arrives in UK cinemas on 7 July. 

 

How we made Name Me Lawand, the immersive documentary about deafness and communication

Director Edward Lovelace tells about his inspiring new film about a young Kurdish boy learning British Sign Language.

By Georgia Korossi

How we made Name Me Lawand, the immersive documentary about deafness and communication

 

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