Tocando La Luz (Touch the Light) is a documentary chronicling the parallel lives of three blind women in Cuba. The first is an elderly woman, Margarita, who participated with her late husband in Castro’s revolution, though she was blind at the time. The second is a young woman, Mily, on the cusp of marriage to her also-blind boyfriend. She dreams of having a family and doing anything seeing people do even though it will always be more difficult for her, a fact of which she is well aware. The third is young woman, Lis, who, with the help of her mother, competes in singing competitions and hopes to become famous and win a Grammy one day.
One of the particular gifts of cinema is its ability to transfer external, sight and sound perspective to the audience. Novels grant emotional perspective. Theater grants immediacy. The culinary arts grant taste and smell. Cinema grants light, sound, and movement. Tocando La Luz features characters whose worlds consist principally of sound and movement. They detect some shifts in light, but the film asks its audience to constantly imagine blindness as we watch these women make their way in the world. If you give yourself over to it, the film is quite exhilarating. If you’ve ever closed your eyes and crossed an empty parking lot, you know the thrill of walking without the aid of sight. These blind persons do much more than walk.
One scene in particular is the most electrifying I’ve seen in a film this year. Mily’s boyfriend participates in a baseball game for the blind in which the players hit, catch, and throw a ball filled with bells, race around the bases by following the sound of aids clapping at each base, and find the ball in the field by following the directions of the shouting, seeing crowd. Director Jennifer Redfearn’s camera follows the boyfriend around the bases as he sprints full bore on a double. I’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron, I’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road, and nothing in either film is nearly as breathtaking as the action in the blind baseball game in Tocando La Luz.
The narrative arcs of the film’s three main characters are relatively standard tales of dependent women gaining degrees of independence—as you might expect from a film about blind women. I saw the film as part of the Movies and Meaning Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the context of the festival, the film became an icon of the dependent independence of us all and the strength found only in those we consider weak. This isn’t a case of “Well, if they can do so much blind, ought I be able to do more with sight.” Instead, Tocando La Luz is the kind of film that makes you eager to love your own weakness and the weakness of others and to discern the uncommon strength available to us because of those weaknesses. The film is on the festival circuit now. When you get a chance to see it, don’t pass it up.