'Blind Sun': Film Review

Courtesy of TIFF
A low-key thriller with sumptuous imagery and a threadbare plot.

Lebanese-born director Joyce A. Nashawati's first feature will make its North American bow in Toronto's Vanguard section.

A gorgeously shot feature debut that musters up more style than story, Blind Sun is an intriguing dystopic fable that toes the line between 1970s-era genre flicks and slow-burn arthouse immersion.

Directed by newcomer Joyce A. Nashawati and lensed by the great Yorgos Arvantis (The Travelling Players), this Greece-set minimalist thriller follows an immigrant house sitter trying to keep cool during one long, hot, endless summer, while facing a variety of threats both real and illusory. With its metaphors for global warming and Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, it’s the kind of film that manages to say a lot while offering too little in terms of plot and character, making for a work that will play best at fests and in highly limited theatrical release. 

After touring the circuit for a year now, including prize-winning stops in Thessaloniki, Brussels and Fantosporto in Portugal, Blind Sun will make its North American bow in Toronto’s Vanguard section this week. It was already distributed in France last spring, earning strong reviews but failing to make much of a dent at the box office.

Featuring widescreen vistas that are so sunbaked you need to put on Ray-Bans to see them clearly, the film follows the creeping and treacherous path of Ashraf Idriss (Palestinian actor Ziad Bakri), who arrives in a desolate seaside town to guard an uber-modernist villa owned by a couple of spoiled French vacationers (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Gwendoline Hamon).

But before he even gets there, Ashraf is accosted by an abusive patrolman (Yannis Stankoglou) who’s decked out in a leather jacket and was probably last seen in a Dario Argento slasher movie. The man takes Ashraf’s papers, leaving him to fend for himself in a hostile land where the temperature keeps rising and foreigners are entirely unwelcome.

The plot pretty much stops there, with Ashraf holed up inside the house as he tries to avoid the heat and the evil cop, making occasional excursions for supplies or to take a dip in the welcoming waters nearby. Nashawati finds purely visual ways to ratchet up the tension as time passes and the atmosphere becomes increasingly untenable, though viewers learn next to nothing about the characters or situations — even if anyone who follows the news will see similarities between Ashraf’s predicament and that of the many asylum seekers currently trying to eke out an existence in the EU.

If the action is limited to a single location and a threadbare narrative, the director and DP do wonders with only a handful of elements, creating an array of piercing images (of the house, the road, the sea, and a swimming pool scorching in broad daylight) that are best appreciated on the big screen. Sound design by Frederic Le Louet (The Assault) is all white noise and furtive silences, coming to a crescendo when the world as Ashraf knows it reaches a boiling point.

Production companies: Pretty Pictures, Good Lap Production, To Be Continued, Blonde S.
Cast: Ziad Bakri, Mimi Denissi, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Yannis Stankoglou, Gwendoline Hamon
Director-screenwriter: Joyce A. Nashawati
Producers: Fenia Cossovitsa, Philippe Akoka, Alain Peyrollaz, Vincent Brancon, Lionel Guedj, Dominique Marzotto
Director of photography: Yorgos Arvantis
Production designer: William Mordos
Costume designer: Agis Panayotou
Editor: Sebastien Prangere
Composer: Cedric Pilooski Marszewski
Casting directors: Stephane Capetanides, Natalie Pawloff
Sales: Reel Suspects

In French, Greek, English

Not rated, 88 minutes

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