Quick recap: Lepers! They’re just like us! They eat, play with friends and have bricks stacked on top of their hands in an effort to relieve stiffening joints. So much like us, those lepers.
Fun (?) fact: Leprosy can be spread to humans from armadillos. Now I don’t feel so bad about all the ones I have hit in the past, and believe me, there were MANY.
My thoughts: There really isn’t much to say about this film, partly because it’s so short and partly because it’s just footage of people with leprosy so I’ll just look like a jerk if I make fun of them. Along with the footage, the director reads her own poetry as well as a few bible verses thrown in for good measure. Most of the time it felt like I was back in the church I grew up in, watching a promo video from some missionary needing sponsorship. At any minute I thought some preacher was going to pop up and in his thick southern accent, beg us to ‘please think of the children’. I’m just thankful there wasn’t inspirational music in the background or it might’ve been too difficult to hold back snark.
Despite what I just wrote, I never felt like The House is Black was exploitive. The people living in the colony seemed truly happy and it made me especially glad to see a team of doctors and nurses taking care of them. I always thought people in leper colonies were cast off and forced to survive on their own but that’s apparently not true for everyone. The podcast Stuff you Should Know did an excellent show about leprosy a few months ago and it was there that I learned how tightly knit these groups can be. There was a famous example of a colony in Hawaii where, even after it was closed, people chose to stay because it was their home. I also learned that the disease is curable although its disfiguring effects can not be reversed. As sad as these colonies seem to us, they are able to provide a somewhat loving, normal life.
The scene that kind of derailed the movie was at the end when the teacher asked his students such enlightening questions such as ‘name something good (friends, play time)’ and then ‘name something ugly (hand, foot)’. What the hell kind of lesson is this? And then he asks one of the children to explain why parents are important and the kid answers that he doesn’t know because HE DOESN’T HAVE ANY. Jeez. The title of the film comes from the teacher asking a man to write a sentence using the word ‘house’ and the man comes up with ‘the house is black’. So I guess they were studying grammar or ‘phrases you can use to totally make westerners feel even more sorry for you than they already do.’
Final review: 3/5.
Up next: Sex,Lies and Videotape