Name Me Lawand
Photograph: BFI Distribution
  • Film
  • Recommended


Name Me Lawand

4 out of 5 stars

This affecting coming-of-age doc is as pure and literal a manifestation of ‘finding your voice’ as you’ll see


Time Out says

The extent of most five-year-olds’ hardships begin and end with tying their shoelaces. But young Kurdish boy Lawand has already completed the inhumane obstacle course that has come to define the refugee journey – all while not being able to speak a single language.

Born deaf to a hearing family in Kurdistan, without the educational means to learn sign language, Lawand’s dreams seem limited from the get-go. His parents are unable to accept this bleak reality and make the difficult decision to leave their homeland behind and take him and his brother in search of a better life. A treacherous journey of ferocious currents, barbed-wire fences and sleepless nights haunted by the screams of asylum-seekers leads them to the English city of Derby, where he’s enrolled at the Royal School for the Deaf. 

Here, director Edward Lovelace shifts the perspective from Lawand’s family and lets him guide the story in an intimate style akin to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a key influence on the doc. Under the guidance of a kind-hearted British Sign Language teacher, we follow him blossoming into the spritely, inquisitive and playful boy he’s always been, but has rarely been able to show. 

Lovelace’s camera captures every twitch, clasp and motion of Lawand’s remarkable BSL progress in riveting detail over the course of four years. We also see this beauty being initially lost on his parents, whose perception of deafness has been formed by the challenges of raising Lawand in Iraq where it has only served as an obstruction to him being accepted. But those old fears are quickly dispelled by the wholesome friendships Lawand builds with his classmates. Their playground adventures are the emotional highlights of the film, ordinary moments made dreamlike through composer Tom Hodge’s soundscape of vibrations and muffled noises. The presence of producer Sam Arnold (who is also deaf) is also keenly felt in the form of subtitles and illustrated sign language chapter cards throughout.

Composer Tom Hodge’s soundscape makes ordinary moments feel dreamlike

There are new fears here too, in the shape of an ominous Home Office letter that threatens to snatch Lawand’s family from their new found home. Name Me Lawand’s release comes just as the UK’s controversial Rwanda deportation plan has been ruled unlawful, supercharging its migrant narrative with topicality.

Name Me Lawand suggests that non-verbal communication even trumps the spoken word as a means of human connection, because love, friendship and kindness will always be understood with an open heart. It’s the kind of message we can all get behind. 

In UK cinemas Jul 7.

You may also like
You may also like