You’d have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by Name Me Lawand. It’s a documentary about a Kurdish boy, deaf since birth, who has lived a lonely, isolated and shut-in life until he learns British Sign Language and slowly starts to blossom and reveal who he is. (Who are we without language?) There is only one big release this week – Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, which I couldn’t see in time for my deadline anyhow – but this small film has to be more affecting than any mission that turns out to be possible in the end. Unless, that is, your heart is one of the stony ones.
The film is impressionistic and observational. It does not give us specific facts, which can be frustrating. But it wants to immerse us in Lawand’s world, and it does so grippingly. He is around six at the outset. He has wonderfully dark curls and wonderfully dark eyes although what’s going on behind them nobody knows as he cannot communicate, not even with his family, who are all hearing.
The family are living in Derby after a treacherous journey involving small boats, the back of a truck and a year in a refugee camp, shown in brief, terrifying flashbacks. It’s not a political film with a capital ‘P’. It just shows us how they came here, out of desperation, for Lawand’s sake. There was nothing for him in northern Iraq. There were no provisions for deaf people. His parents were told Lawand couldn’t attend school and should be kept home. He wouldn’t venture out because if he did other kids would throw rocks at him. ‘We realised if we stayed Lawand would not be given a proper chance of life,’ says his father.