Resurrecting Hassan

If you have taken the metro in Montreal on a regular basis you have probably come across the Harting – Denis, Peggy and Lauviah – family. They are the trio of blind singers who perform a cappella. What this documentary does is show you the people behind the singing. You leave it feeling you have a grasp on who they are.

resurrecting hassanThe story begins with them singing in the metro and then moves on to a group they are all attending in which contacting the dead is being discussed. We soon find out that they are religious people and believe that a person can be resurrected. This is important to them as Denis and Peggy’s seven-year-old son Hassan, the only sighted member of the family, died young from drowning. His death has really affected the three that remain. Denis and Peggy have gone on to research, involve themselves with Russian mystic Grigori Petrovich Grabovoi and now are believers in resurrection. Bottom line is that they are a family looking for peace.

As the story goes on we learn that the family has had to deal with violence – verbal and physical. Through therapy they are trying to get past that. At the same time, Peggy is beginning a relationship (on the phone) with a blind man named Philippe, who lives in Paris. She is falling in love with Philippe (and he with her) during their furtive, late at night phone calls. This puts plenty of pressure of the negative sorts on her relationship with Denis as she is honest with him telling Denis about Philippe.

Despite the reason the documentary seems to have been made (the idea of resurrecting Hassan) it veers off into a different direction. The dubious nature of the resurrecting (most who watch the film will not believe it is possible) and how the family is trying to repair itself by clinging to the hope of bringing Hassan back, takes a back seat to what is going on between Peggy and Denis. Once it becomes apparent that Peggy is struggling with the idea of leaving Denis for Philippe the entire mood and feel of the film changes. They seem to be constantly fighting about one thing or another as their daughter stands mutely by. Is the fighting a result of the death of Hassan or are they just not compatible? The result is that Lauviah, a blind and autistic young woman on the verge of adulthood, is left to her own devices to figure out her path in the world.

Family dynamics, faith and how close a filmmaker should get to his subjects are topics brought to light in Resurrecting Hassan. Director Carlo Guillermo Proto (El Huaso) seems to fall into the trap of getting too close to the Hartings. His camera gets really up close and personal to his subjects never seeming to let any awkward moment go unfilmed. At times it is hard to watch, as you feel like you are seeing things you should not. You stay with it because you want to see if any or all will attain the redemption they so obviously crave.

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