Can a song save your life?
La Sombra del Sol (The Shadow of the Sun) tells the story of Leo (Carlos Manuel Gonzalez), a hard-working, blue-collar man who’s struggling to keep his family afloat financially. However, things begin to change when he encounters his younger brother, Alex (Anyelo Lopez). Having been deaf since birth, Alex has a passion for music and wants Leo to perform a song that he’s writing in a musical contest in the nation’s capital. At first, Leo isn’t interested but the big financial reward for first place entices him to sign up. As Leo attempts to reconnect with his musical past, the two brothers work together to build something greater than a song. To them, this could be a new life.
In many ways, La Sombra del Sol is much more than the tale of a singing competition. Written and directed by Miguel Angel Ferrer, the film taps into the beauty of the human spirit. Anchoring the film on the relationship between the two brothers, Ferrer has woven at tale of intricate beauty that absolutely sparkles with joy, even in its most difficult of moments.
Set in the heart of Venezuela, Ferrer explores the nation’s struggle with poverty while highlighting the fire that burns within them. Through characters like Leo, Ferrer taps into the heart of a nation burdened but yearns to heal. For instance, although he’s weighed down by debt, Leo still fights for his well-being. This is a world where the ones who get ahead are those willing to bend the rules, yet he still remains committed to being a good man. There’s a determination within him that fuels his heart, even if it is marred with frustration.
But the true soul of the film is the way that it celebrate the power of the Deaf Community.
By telling the story through Alex’s perspective, Del Sol taps into the incredible beauty of the Deaf Community. As Alex, Lopez absolutely breathes life into Del Sol. While Gonzalez delivers an incredible performance as Leo, it’s Lopez who steals almost every scene that he’s in with his blend of humility and confidence. While Alex may not be able to hear, he remains the one who is most able to listen to the soul of others. Despite his hearing impairment, it’s Alex who can recognize the brokenness inside Leo’s home. It’s Alex who is able to empower another gay youth. It’s Alex who speaks up on behalf of those who need it most.
And, most importantly, it’s Alex who writes La Sombra Del Sol.
Without giving away any spoilers, Alex’s perspective is essential to understanding the true power and beauty of the song with which these characters have worked so hard on together. Whether or not he can hear the notes, Alex can tell if it’s performed properly and with the correct spirit. To him, music is something that is felt. He need not hear the pitch in order to know whether or not Leo is singing from the depths of his spirit.
After all, this is also very much a film about finding one’s voice.
Without question, del Sol understands that this idea runs deeper than being able to use one’s mouth. For example, although he is respected by many in his community, Leo remains trapped in a toxic relationship at home. Although he appears strong in the outside, he struggles to speak up for himself. At the same time, Alex’s potential love interest, Brayian (Jeizer Ruiz) is held under the pressures of a toxically-male society. Forced to contain his sexuality, he feels detached from his own life and yearns to be free. But gradually, each begin to find the courage to be themselves. There’s a sense of empowerment that grows within them as they are challenged to look into their hearts and free themselves the expectations of others.
To say any more would do a disservice to the film as it’s absolutely stunning to see unfold. In La Sombra del Sol, Ferrer has created a tale of such beauty that one cannot help be caught up in its power. More than a tale about music or personal struggles, this is ultimately a story that challenges the viewer to unleash the beauty of their souls. Then, and only then, can they truly ‘shine brighter than the sun’.
La Sombra Del Sol (The Shadow of the Sun) is Venezuela’s submission to the 2024 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film.