Lawand: From Voiceless to a Voice Representing the Deaf Community and British Sign Language (BSL)

Podcast Interview with Edward Lovelace
Interviewed by Dr Khalid Ali, film and media correspondent, Global Health Film Fellow, and co-founder of ‘Medfest Egypt’.

In this podcast Dr Khalid Ali, film and media correspondent, interviews British documentary filmmaker, Edward Lovelace and discusses his film ‘’Name me Lawand’’. The film is a rapturous portrait of a deaf Kurdish boy’s emotional journey towards discovering how to express himself. It is a love letter to the power of communication and community. Edward describes how he bonded with Lawand and how together they created a poignant film amplifying the voices of the Deaf community and their fight for passing the BSL Act in 2022.

Five-year-old Lawand is on a quest to find a world where there are people like him – people who will understand him. Since birth, Lawand has been profoundly deaf and unable to communicate with those around him. He undertakes a treacherous journey with his family from Iraq to Derby, home of the Royal School for the Deaf. But this new life soon comes under threat when the family face deportation. Along with members of the Derby community, they begin a new quest – a fight to stay in the place they now call home. Employing a striking visual style that frames Lawand’s development, from being voiceless to a voice representing others in the deaf community, this is a story about the power that language gives us, the freedom that a real home allows us, and the burning light of hope that never goes out.

 

Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud.

 

Picture of Edward LovelaceEdward Lovelace is a British documentary filmmaker known for his critically acclaimed work, including his highly anticipated feature “Name Me Lawand”, nominated for a Greison Award at the London Film Festival 2022. His award-winning third feature film was co-directed with James Hall “The Possibilities Are Endless’’ (screened at SXSW Festival, and London Film Festival and was a Winner of Best Film at both Solo Positivio and MOJO Awards). Edward’s Sky Atlantic documentary series “Human Made Stories” was a Winner of 14 awards at Cannes Lions, D&AD, British Arrows, Creative Circle and Tribeca Film Festival 2020.

Edward’s other film credits include ‘‘Sid’’ (working title), a Feature Narrative in development at BBC FILMS, ‘’A Song Still Inside’’ (2020 – Short Narrative BFI), ‘’Katy Perry: Part of Me’’ (2012 – Feature Documentary Paramount), and ‘’Werewolves Across America’’ (2010 – Feature Documentary CPH DOCs & Raindance).

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

DR KHALID ALI: Hello and welcome to this new edition of Medical Humanities Podcast series. This is Khalid Ali, film, and media correspondent at Medical Humanities Journal. It is my great pleasure to have with me today, Edward Lovelace, award-winning British documentary filmmaker. Without any further ado, I will hand over to Edward to tell us more about himself and how film became his calling. Ed, great to have you with us today.

EDWARD LOVELACE: Thank you, Khalid. Yeah, it’s an honor, mate. Thank you for asking to do this. How film became my calling. Well, I think on reflection, looking back as a kid, I would get obsessed with one movie at a time, and I’d watch that film every single morning before school. And I’d come back from school and just continue where I left off and just finish it that evening. And I would do that on loop for weeks on end. And I think looking back, I definitely used film and specifically like, you know, not just any film, but I would get obsessed with one movie that seemed to help me figuring out the world and how, my relationship to it. So, my obsession with film definitely started early, and I’ve seen a lot of films many, many times.

ALI: Give me a few examples, Ed. so I could get a sense of what sorts of inspirational films that made creative artillery.

LOVELACE: Yeah, I mean, at the beginning it was like, you know, it was Robin Hood animation.

ALI: Okay.

LOVELACE: That was the early days then I became obsessed with The Sound of Music, and I then moved on to The Great Escape with Steve McQueen.

ALI: Yep.

LOVELACE: My brother, who’s now a filmmaker, he was a few years older than me, so I was getting access to films that maybe other people my age weren’t. So, I then became obsessed with The Godfather Part 2, Big Lebowski. And then when I was a little bit older, I remember a film called The Wonder Boys with Robert Downey Jr, which is like a film I absolutely love. Again, these films I would just watch over and over and over again.

LOVELACE: as an adult or as a young adult, the films of Alan Clarke and Gus Van SANT, those were the films that made me think that maybe the way I thought about stories and cinema, those films made me think I could make films ‘cause they seemed to sort of show me something that I’d never seen before. And somehow once I started to see Gus Van Sant’s movies and Alan Clarke’s movie specifically, I think I started to see a film language that I could imagine myself working in within those walls, basically.

ALI: Fantastic. Thank you so much for that introduction to how you became obsessed, if I may say, with film.

LOVELACE: [chuckles]

ALI: Now, I watched with great admiration and love your recent documentary film, Name Me Lawand, that premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2022. Tell us a bit about Name Me Lawand, how and when you met the young Kurdish boy, Lawand, and his family, and what made you decide that you want to tell this particular story? Tell us more.

LOVELACE: Ace. Yeah. So, Name Me Lawand is the story of Lawand, who is a 12-year-old Kurdish boy who grew up with no language in north Iraq with his family. And his family couldn’t access a sort of deaf education for him, and so they left northern Iraq. And they traveled, and they were migrants for a year and ended up trying to find somewhere, essentially, where they felt that Lawand would have the best chance of, yeah, finding a deaf education, essentially. And ended up in the UK in Derby and got taken in by this really beautiful school called the Royal School for the Deaf Derby. And the film essentially is the story of Lawand learning British Sign Language and being able to tell his story and sort of understand the world and how it works through language. It’s also the story of how the family were trying to stay in the UK and how the community at Derby and Lawand’s school helped them fight against the Home Office to allow them to stay and allow Lawand to continue learning. In the end, it’s a sort of friendship movie really, and it’s like Lawand’s mission to try and stay in the same place as his friends and in the place that he considers his home.

I came across Lawand and his family because I saw a photo of Lawand and his brother. They were really young at the time. They’d just gotten to Derby. And I read up a little bit about their situation and started to learn that here was a family that didn’t have one common language. His parents spoke Kurdish. Lawand’s older brother who’s one year older than him, he spoke Kurdish and was learning English as in spoken word English. And Lawand was beginning to learn British Sign Language in Derby. But I guess they didn’t, I was thinking, I wonder how this family communicated. I have a big family. I love movies about families. I was just wondering how this family communicated. And actually, I think I was wondering if the process of making a film might sort of be a part of their journey in kind of communication. So, I contacted the school, Lawand’s school, and just totally fell in love with the school, obviously, fell in love with Lawand and his family. And I spent like a year at the school in Derby learning sign language myself and just getting a great sense of joy by being with these people. And obviously, Lawand and his family at the time, they were pretty detached from any sense of community in Derby. They’d just arrived. They didn’t know anyone. Lawand was trying to figure out where they were, why they were there. And so, my role then was just being a sort of new friend to them, and that was really, like a period in my life that I look back on with great memories. ‘Cause, yeah, at that point I wasn’t really trying to make a film; I was enjoying being with them and spending time with them and getting to know them.

I guess when I started to really think it could be a film that I would be the right person in telling was, you know, at the beginning when I first met Lawand, he was still trying to learn language and still trying to understand what he’d been through and where he was. And then obviously, I had an idea of what a film would be like that would represent him. Lots of references come to mind, like Diving Bell and the Butterfly, my previous film, The Possibilities Are Endless, and I guess any film where someone is trying to express themselves and they can’t yet. So, that at the beginning was what I could imagine a film being like. But what was so amazing was just watching Lawand’s personality sort of blossom. So, once he had gained control of his language and once he’d got access to British Sign Language through his teachers in his school, his personality just exploded. And at that point, Lawand was just like a force of nature his personality was starting to show what it is now, which is like he’s so—

ALI: Confident.

LOVELACE: He’s just amazing. Yeah, he is. He is. I mean, he is like a little superstar, really. It’s so amazing to be in his company and his wit and his humor and he’s so sure—

ALI: Charismatic, I would say.

LOVELACE: Yeah, he really is. He really is. Yeah. I mean, he’s definitely got this magnetism, and he is really the heartbeat at his school. When he’s in the room, his personality sort of fills it, and he is the superstar. And at that point I was like, right, my job as a filmmaker is to forget any preconceived ideas I might’ve had about what this could be, and instead just get out of the way of Lawand and just let Lawand be the person who was just gonna lead every creative decision.

ALI: Mmhmm.

LOVELACE: And then it was all about myself and my film team working in a way that allowed Lawand just like the space and a sort of stage to be himself, basically. And so, then that’s when I started to really think this film is gonna be special because Lawand is just so special. And if we can just let him be himself, then it’ll be, yeah, special.

ALI: It is a special film indeed, having watched it twice, once at the London Film Festival and in preparation for our podcast interview today. You mentioned definitely Lawand is a very charismatic, great young child. Now he’s coming to adolescence with great determination. But in your portrayal in the film, there’s this special relationship as well between Lawand and his older brother, Rawa, and the communication challenges between him and his parents and how that evolved over the years. Still, I’ll let you fill in bits of the story about how that journey you all took together as a documentary filmmaker, Lawand, Rawa, and their parents, how they evolved, all of them, not only Lawand. So, tell us how long you’ve been with them and the change you’ve seen happening within this family and the dynamics between them.

LOVELACE: Yeah. Yeah. So, it’s been three, it’s gonna get close to four years now since I first met the family and we started sort of doing this together. Yeah, and witnessing this change in all of them and their relationship has been such a sort of amazing one. I mean, I think first off, Lawand and Rawa’s relationship at the beg-, straight from the off, I think you could tell, which I think a lot of siblings will relate to, they had a sort of unspoken way of understanding each other. So, yeah, so, they didn’t share a language, obviously. Lawand had no language, and Rawa could speak Kurdish. They just had a way of connecting and looking after each other that is pretty amazing to be in the presence of a connection like that. That felt really special.

ALI: Mmhmm.

LOVELACE: I think one of the biggest changes in the family, I guess, is that Lawand’s parents, they felt, I guess in the way they were raised, their sort of goal was that Lawand would get somewhere where he could learn language; and obviously that was gonna be sign language. But I think their goal initially was that sign language would help him then learn verbal language, I think. Yeah, again, I guess the way they viewed the world was that if Lawand could verbally communicate, which obviously is the mainstream, is the norm on this planet, is that so that they knew then Lawand would, you know, he could cope in any situation. He could thrive in any situation. That’s what their goal was. I guess what’s been amazing to witness, which the film talks about, which I think is a lesson for everyone to learn, which I strive to learn obviously much more about from making this film, was that when someone is able to communicate in the language that most accurately represents them, it allows them to express themselves in the way that they choose.

ALI: Mmhmm.

LOVELACE: When that happens, someone can truly be themselves. And that is an ama-, that is a powerful, powerful thing. And everyone deserves that right.

ALI: Mmhmm.

LOVELACE: And watching Lawand communicate verbally or at least try to, as in speaking in Kurdish with his parents, he’s so limited in his, in what he can say. Their understanding of him and Lawand’s, the tools Lawand, well, I guess the limitation of the tools that Lawand has to communicate verbally. You just don’t, he isn’t being his full self. So, obviously when Lawand’s communicating in British Sign Language, all of these different layers of his personality come out. And like I said, the way Lawand is able to convey humor and wit and banter and a real bravado in British Sign Language is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. So, I think the thing that I guess as a filmmaker I’m really, really proud of is that I think whenever I start making a film, making sure that the film, the presence of the film, is having a positive effect on the people that I’m making it with, that, as a thing right at the beginning of every project, that’s the thing I really care about.

ALI: Yes.

LOVELACE: If then, that process leads to a finished film, then great. But the thing that I really care about at the beginning is that it has to have a positive influence on the people, on the subjects.

ALI: I just wanted to say that you were quite faithful to the family’s point of view when they justified why they wanted him to communicate using spoken language because of their fears of him being bullied, being different, being ostracized, whether that’s back in Iraq or in the new, you know, in the UK. So, they had their reasons, and you presented that, I think, very clearly and took on board their viewpoint as well. So, it’s as much as it’s Lawand’s story, but it’s again, including what his family thought.

LOVELACE: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Well, I think Lawand’s parents, all of their choices since Lawand’s been alive have been for him. So, they’ve been trying to do everything that they think is right to give him the best chance of a life. I think the thing that’s interesting in their journey, which I felt was really important to depict in the film, was the shift in their understanding. And I think this, obviously, every parent must go through this when they’re at the beginning. When they have a new kid, the parent is in control of making all the decisions for their kid. At a certain point, the kid is gonna grow old enough and confident enough to know themselves in a way that even the parents can’t know.

ALI: Mm.

LOVELACE: And then the kid is becoming a person, and they then have the right to make their own choices. And they know what is gonna be right for them. And obviously, Lawand, at a certain point, I guess his parents could really see, wow, when Lawand is communicating with his friends inside, when Lawand is living a life that is true to his Deaf identity, he is this little superstar, and he’s so happy.

ALI: Mm.

LOVELACE: And when he’s at home communicating verbally, he’s a different person, and he’s really frustrated. And that isn’t his true self. So, I think the parents over time started to see that their initial idea was wrong, really.

ALI: Mmhmm.

LOVELACE: And they had to sort of—

ALI: Adapt.

LOVELACE: —relearn themselves.

ALI: Mm, mm.

LOVELACE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think the thing that I was gonna say, the thing that I’m really proud of is that through the film, obviously, lots of our crew are Deaf. And when the parents, I guess, met our crew, I think they were meeting just really amazing, creative, confident people. And I think the parents for the first time were seeing people where, and they could see that to Lawand these people were sort of becoming people that he was looking up to. And I think that gave the parents, that helped the parents reshape how they saw the world, I guess.

ALI: Mm. Yeah. And it reconfirmed or gave them the confidence that the decision they’ve taken was the right one seeing these people that Lawand does have chances, and he can fulfill his potential.

I know that the film premiered to a sold-out audience, full audience at the London Film Festival. Was Lawand present? So, tell me about the reception of the film at that screening and what were your expectations? I could interpret the film on several levels. It’s a motivational story. It’s a Kurdish immigrant family survival story. It’s an ode to the power of community, a lot of other, specifically the Deaf community and the challenges that they face. But reception at the London Film Festival, and what were your expectations? How do you want the audience to perceive Lawand and his family story?

LOVELACE: Thanks. Thanks, Khalid. That’s a really lovely question. Yeah, the London Film Festival was just such a memorable and a joyful moment. And obviously we had Lawand, his brother, and his dad in the audience.

ALI: Awesome.

LOVELACE: Lawand’s mom and the little brother weren’t there because his mum is about to have another son. So, they couldn’t come. But yeah, Lawand and his brother and his dad were there, and it was just, yeah, it felt super special. And I think really, like, Lawand, for a 12-year-old, I mean, he just took everything in his stride, and in true Lawand fashion, just seemed to not care too much about the fanfare. And I think there were lots of people there that were very excited to meet him, especially after the film. But Lawand just took it all in his stride. And I think just really, he’s such a humble person, and I think he doesn’t, he likes being center of stage, but he also likes other people also being center of stage. And I think him and his brother just really, I think they, I think for them, that was the big climax of their journey and their kind of connection with us as filmmakers.

I think for me as a filmmaker, whenever I meet someone, I always just say, look, basically, the victory at the end of the film is that you guys, whether it’s Lawand’s family or whether it’s past people that I’ve made films about, the victory is that you guys watch the film, and you are proud, and you feel like this film is a creative extension of who you are. And I want people to watch the films I make about them, and they think they really see their sort of spirit, their personality on screen, and it’s as much their film as it is mine. So, that was my goal. But then to have this big audience at LFF and Lawand and Rawa to really see this big group of people, like people in London and people who obviously traveled from around the world to go to London Film Festival, and the fact that they saw all these people connect with them, I think it was a pretty amazing thing.

ALI: Very special.

LOVELACE: Yeah, it was amazing. Amazing, yeah. And then kind of, yeah, the second part of that question, which was how I want people to interpret the movie. I think for me, the things that Lawand would be most proud of and the thing that as a filmmaker I just had such an amazing time doing was allowing the film to become a sort of buddy movie. At some point, Lawand and his friends, really, there were lots of different things happening in the movie with the Home Office, with that sort of battle going on. Also, Lawand and his parents and Lawand and his family, them sort of figuring out how to communicate with each other. But obviously, at the core of it, it’s a film about friendships. It’s Lawand, it’s a kid dreaming, fantasizing of being able to have a friend and understanding how friendship works and hoping one day he can, with language, make his friends laugh and connect with them.

ALI: Mm.

LOVELACE: And then obviously, at the end of the film he gets that. But then obviously, he’s then fighting to remain with them because he wants to stay in the place where his friends are. And I think that element of the movie and how that changed how I was making it, thinking about some of my favorite films that, yeah, films like Good Will Hunting, films like Stand By Me, films that have other things going on, but at the heart of them, they’re about a group of friends. And it’s everything kind of leads back to that. That’s the thing that I was really excited about people connecting with.

Also, I think Lawand and his friends often, as a group of young Deaf kids they think that a hearing audience might think that all they do is talk about their Deaf identity or talk about sign language. But obviously, they’re just kids being mates, kind of just hanging out. And I think they were, Lawand was, Lawand and Rawa were like, the thing they were most proud about was that the film just allows that to be depicted. And at the end, lots of the audience, especially the hearing audience, were coming up to me and Lawand’s family and just wanting to know more about Lawand and his friends. And I think that was the thing that was striking. So, I think that’s the thing that I’m most proud that people connected with.

ALI: Mm. I think while you told this story and the multi-, the several levels of communication and friendship and all the wonderful themes that you’ve shared with us inspired by classic films that explore that friendship. But there were some creative decisions that you have made. And for the listeners who would be really keen to watch the film, I’m sure, after listening to your wonderful journey, there are some specific, you’ve divided the film into seven chapters. I’ll let you tell the listeners about the decision that you wanted to signpost, highlight that each chapter of this story as presented in the film signifies a significant life-turning event or a conscious decision. So, tell us about the chapters in the film.

LOVELACE: Yes. Yeah. So, I mean, I guess, so, the structure of the movie is like, is relatively formal, I guess. There’s three parts to it, really, in terms of how the story’s told, which obviously, is pretty classic. I think when we were editing the film, we started to see as the, you know, at the beginning we didn’t know it would be seven. It felt like these seven stages of a) Lawand’s language ability and also, I guess the seven sort of big events. And then it started to just be really clear that, well, if we capitalized them, then you would know that at those certain points, they also, the titles of the chapters helped you understand that Lawand was, it basically helped track Lawand’s learning of language. And at the beginning it might just be one word, but by the end, Chapter Seven, that word can be quite broad. And that’s sort of, we were interested in playing with the idea of as Lawand was learning certain words, one word can mean so many things, and it can be so broad. And it just seemed right. I guess the way you present the film, and I always think about like in a story or a movie in waves and obviously, you have the calm before the wave, and then the wave approaches you and gets bigger and bigger. Then you’re riding the wave, and then it sort of crashes. And then you recover and then another wave kind of comes on the horizon. And it does seem to play out like that. It just seemed to be told in these seven sections. Also, we liked the idea of the titles of the film are all in British Sign Language and then—

ALI: They are.

LOVELACE: you see the image of the fingerspelling on screen, and then in brackets, smaller, lower down you see the sort of the written—

ALI: The words.

LOVELACE: —version. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think we were excited about saying to the audience this film is gonna be totally true to Lawand, and all the titles are gonna be British Sign Language because that’s his primary language. And that was another sort of, when we were trying to figure out these chapter headings, that felt like another way to put Lawand’s footprint on the film, basically. So, yeah.

ALI: Let’s select one: Faith, the last chapter in the film. What huge, huge concept and ideas behind it and a way of life. And so, tell me about Faith.

LOVELACE: Yeah, I think basically, that chapter of the film really, by that point, obviously, the kind of undercurrent of the movie is that—which was obviously totally true throughout, which is what was happening when we were filming—was that Lawand had all of his, I guess, emotional, internal goals to try and overcome what he’d been through, to try and understand where he was, and to try and learn language and to kind of form these friendships. But the thing that was happening in the background always, which was so unsettling for the family, was that they didn’t know what was happening with the Home Office.

LOVELACE: the fact that Lawand and his family were able just to be so positive and find lots of space to have fun and be present and live in the moment, that is something that I’ve got so much respect for, the fact that they were able to do that. And then obviously, Lawand always knew that there was a chance that at any moment this could all be taken away.

ALI: Mmhmm.

LOVELACE: It’s such a crazy thing for someone so young to go through. But I think at the end of the film, I think Lawand starts to realize that even if the family have to leave, and even if Lawand has to go back to one of the countries that they’d sort of passed through on the way or whatever happens, I think Lawand starts to believe. He starts to have faith that he has, that with language and with his personality, wherever he is, he will be able to sort of make this planet one that can be a home for him, basically. So, I think it becomes way, his belief in himself, and I guess the hope, like a strong belief in the world. ‘Cause he’s, obviously, in the film he sees more than just his parents change their perception to do with sign language. Obviously—we can talk about in a little bit—but obviously, he sees the UK change their perception as well. So, I think he has this faith, he has this belief that whatever happens, he will be able to find hope, and he will be able to sort of—

ALI: Thrive.

LOVELACE: —carve out a place in the world. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That he’ll be able to go on, basically. So, yeah.

ALI: And as well, this faith is shared with Rawa. I remember a sentence from the film when Rawa says that they, when they started their journey together, him and Lawand, they wanted a different planet, and they wanted to emigrate to a different planet where they can be themselves, where Lawand can express himself and his identity. And towards the end, Rawa says, actually, this place could be this place where we are now, whether it’s Derby or elsewhere. But we can, Lawand and his family, they can make a difference, they can make a change, and actually, they don’t have to travel to a different planet to be themselves. So, that was a very powerful message. Mm.

LOVELACE: Yeah. Exactly, yeah. So, during our interviews with Lawand and Rawa, this kind of thing came up that Lawand and Rawa had said that, ever since they were kids, they always, they sort of thought maybe that this whole, that the whole of planet Earth wasn’t somewhere that was right for them, that maybe they were destined to exist somewhere else in the galaxy. And they would find, you know, I guess it was their sort of like quite childlike—

ALI: Dream. [chuckles]

LOVELACE: —yeah, dream of being like, well, so far, all we are, all we’re experiencing is just various places that don’t feel like home. And so, maybe there’s a different planet altogether.

LOVELACE: in the end, Rawa and Lawand both realize, I think they just started to believe in change. I think when you’re younger, you think the world is what it is, and nothing’s gonna change it, and you have to just accept it. I think when you get older, especially, Lawand has got more confident through language. He’s so, Lawand’s so in control of his destiny. That’s how he feels that I think suddenly, Lawand and Rawa feel quite empowered that the world is somewhere that, given time and circumstance, can change. And so, for them, they’re just like, well, all we needed was to know that that was possible, and then now we can help that happen, basically.

ALI: And that leads me to ask you about the historical landmark ruling, the 2020 BSL Act. So, tell us about that. That was a significant moment in Lawand’s life and as well as for the Deaf community in the UK. So, tell us about that act and how it can help children like Lawand and others in the UK. I’m talking about immigrants and people traveling to the UK, to get those opportunities that Lawand had. Tell us more about this, please.

LOVELACE: Yes. Thank you. Yes. So, yes, the BSL Act is—

ALI: British Sign Language.

LOVELACE: Exactly. Yes, the British Sign Language Act is a thing that basically got passed in March of 2022 and specifically is a law that basically means that the protection, support, and inclusion of Deaf people in the UK is now at legal level. An example that one of our Deaf producers always uses is that when you go to hospital—often lots of people experience this who are Deaf but have hearing kids—that when they go to a hospital, and they’re, say, getting their results for a really important health situation, there won’t be interpreters there. So, the doctor is telling the kid who might be a hearing kid, which then informs their parents through sign language of this news. It’s such a crazy, and obviously, completely wrong and flawed system. So, obviously, the BSL Act is there to make sure that quite simple but really important things like interpreters are always there at these really pivotal moments of life in the UK for the Deaf people and for people that are from a Deaf family. So, this was obviously bubbling away for quite a few years. A version of it got passed a few years ago, but then this moment in March of 2022 was when the kind of like final piece of the puzzle was being hopefully passed in court. And obviously, the day, which was March 18th, that day was I guess every Deaf school in the UK was obviously very aware of it.

ALI: Absolutely.

LOVELACE: And at that point in Lawand and his family’s journey, Lawand has asked his parents, “Can we go to London and be part of the rally and go to Trafalgar Square and see it? And I wanna be there to help drum up that energy to make sure that all the politicians are seeing us.” And so, it was amazing, basically. So, obviously the family went. We were there filming. And I think Lawand already was beginning to have that sort of belief in change for the planet and society. But I think seeing that moment, you know, sometimes you can read things and you can understand things by going and being physically with people. And participating in something like that, it’s so profound. And obviously, I think Lawand was just so emotional and just quite in shock seeing so many people from all around the UK that felt exactly like him. And that was just an amazing thing. And to be there with him filming, but just to witness it was well, it was just such a joy, yeah.

ALI: And for us at Medical Humanities, one, it’s very relevant because the theme for Medical Humanities this year was access to care. And access includes being inclusive for all communities with all their abilities or different abilities, obviously, including the Deaf community. So, access and having that legalized is quite a milestone and actually one of the human rights fights that Medical Humanities, our journal, is championing.

Lastly, I would like to ask you, Ed, about how do you see Name Me Lawand, the documentary film, as a campaigning tool for advancing the fight for better rights for the Deaf community? I mean about the role of film in activism and social reform for all communities, but in particular the Deaf community. So, tell us a few words about how the film can be used as a platform.

LOVELACE: Yeah. Great. Yeah, great, Khalid. Thank you. I think for me, my favorite films are great stories told really cinematically, but they allow bigger conversations to happen outside of the film. I really like films that focus on something quite small and bring the audience in and amplify that one quite small, personal one moment. But then after we watch the film, we can then talk about these bigger things. And that’s something I’m definitely really proud of with Name Me Lawand, ‘cause obviously it’s so specific to Lawand and his one situation, but it might allow bigger conversations to happen. And if our film can be part of the bigger conversation or even shift the conversation, then obviously, that is something that we’re all, myself and all of the Deaf filmmakers that worked with me, everyone’s obviously just so excited about what could happen.

I think there are two things. I think one, obviously, yes, any film that can help the rights of Deaf people in the UK obviously connected to the BSL Act, that’s gonna be a positive thing. Lots of the people I’ve been working with have been saying, “Why isn’t British Sign Language taught in mainstream here in schools?” And for example, like in the street that Lawand’s school is in, there was a school, there’s a hearing school 30 seconds down the road. If in the hearing school they were being taught British Sign Language as well as all the other subjects, then they could communicate with all these kids. And then they’d have more friends, and there would be just a greater empathy and understanding.

ALI: Mm, mm.

LOVELACE: So, that is definitely something that I guess my film team were excited about, that idea of pushing that.

I guess also specific to Lawand is obviously his time in various refugee camps, specifically the camps in Dunkirk and Calais in France and the aid and support that was missing, that was lacking for a kid like Lawand was pretty crazy. And a really amazing group of people called Deaf Kids International totally off their own backs, just as individual volunteers were going over to the refugee camps, and these volunteers, they all speak sign—as in they all communicate in sign language, and some of them are Deaf—and they were basically just going over there to see whether there were any kids like Lawand—

ALI: To help.

LOVELACE: Yeah, exactly. That might not be able to communicate their needs. And obviously, that’s a big part of Lawand’s story is the sort of first, I guess, significant Deaf adult he meets is this guy called, well, in the film, he’s called “The Volunteer” ‘cause that’s how Lawand remembered his name. And he’s this guy who’s actually called Steve, who’s actually the founder of Deaf Kids International, who came over and found Lawand and helped Lawand in the camps. And so, I think this hearing agent started to teach Lawand his first signs. I think that there’s so much work to be done with how the right aid gets to everyone in refugee camps and in those intense and vulnerable places and situations that we’re hoping the film can start those conversations as well and further the work that people like Deaf Kids International are doing.

ALI: Absolutely. And I share my voice to yours and Lawand’s and Rawa and the family, that change is happening, but there’s more needs to be done. And I think your film is definitely a powerful tool in continuing the conversation, shaping the conversation, and beyond to involve Deaf community in the UK and internationally. So, I can only recommend, I cannot recommend your film, Name Me Lawand, higher to the listeners, to the audience. I hope that upon its release that it gets seen by as wide a community as possible within the Deaf community and in the hearing community. So, thank you very much, Edward, for sharing with us your beautiful, poignant film that I enjoyed immensely.

LOVELACE: Oh, now, thank you, mate.

ALI: Thank you. And anything you want to add?

LOVELACE: Only that I…. Yeah, thank you, Khalid. Yeah, such a joy to be able to talk about it. And yeah, Lawand would be very, very proud that his story’s being discussed in this way. So, yeah, thank you, mate.

ALI: Thank you so much. And it’s great to have you with us today, and we look forward to continuing the conversation. So, thank you very much for your beautiful film. Thank you.

LOVELACE: Thanks. Thank you, Khalid.

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