Out of the Shadows
A Film for Conflict-Affected Children exploring Trauma Healing
The setting is a village, a simple but lucky place, we’re told, because the surrounding fighting hasn’t reached here yet. This is where Wassam and his sister Sera now live with their aunt’s family, after their parents were killed.
Before the war, Wassam was a happy boy who would do funny voices and tell jokes to make his sister laugh and laugh. They even had a favourite song.
Those days of joking and laughter are gone, however, replaced, for Wassam, by anger. Understandably, this hasn’t made him popular in the new village. While his aunt and uncle are kind, it hasn’t made him popular with his young cousins either, as he’s constantly picking fights. But he and Sera, who has become fearful and withdrawn, are inseparable.
One day, when the power goes out, cousin Ana comes in with an oil lamp that throws a large shadow onto the wall. Sera, under the table as ever, sees it and starts to scream. She is terrified of shadows.
Days later, they hear a traveling Puppet Man of Old is visiting the village, and the family plan to see his show that night. Wassam and Sera reluctantly accompany them. On arrival, to their horror, they realise this is a shadow puppet show. Sera starts to scream. Wassam panics, and tears down the Puppet Man’s screen. The other children are furious!
For a moment, Sera is nowhere to be seen. At last she’s spotted, stroking the man’s donkey. Wassam calms down and apologises. In order to pay for the damage he caused, Wassam must help at the show the following evening.
Nobody turns up: the fact that Wassam is involved has put all the village children off. No matter, the show will go on, with Sera the one audience member. Wassam must help, by playing a character. But what??
The Puppet Man reminds Wassam how he used to make Sera laugh, with his silly voice, and his song. This will be his character. No buts!
With Sera still comforted by the donkey, Wassam nervously starts his shadow puppet performance. “Remember this song?” he asks in his old silly voice. “I’m your friend!”
Sera is still afraid. Wassam insists he’ll protect her. He won’t let anything bad happen, ever, not like it happened, to, to… like it happened before, because he wasn’t there to help. His voice, now his own, falters. Eventually, Sera goes behind the sheet to find her brother crying. She picks up the puppet, wanting to see its non-shadow self. Encouraged, Wassam performs again, and this time makes her laugh! Buoyed by success, he tells more and more jokes, and suddenly hears other children laughing on the other side of the sheet – the whole village seems to be there!
The Puppet Man makes to leave. Wassam is terrified – he has brought Sera some happiness at last, he can’t go! “You don’t need me for that,” the Puppet Man says. “You’re already doing the show. Your audience loves it!”
So Wassam turned his anger and pain into something good, the Puppet Man tells the audience. “He used his talents to help little Sera get over her fear by making her laugh. That’s a powerful thing! How about you? Can you make someone laugh? I bet you can!”