The day after my father died a little over a year ago I walked around New York City, aimlessly. I didn’t know where I was going, or doing, or what I was even supposed to do, really. The only thing that felt right at all was listening to Bruce Springsteen. I think there’s a Springsteen gene that a person either has or they don’t have. But, if you do have it, you know that the lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song can speak directly to you – either lifting you up or breaking you down, depending on whatever might be needed at that particular moment.
On that day, I listened to “My Hometown,” which is far from my favorite Springsteen song, but on that day it was. As Bruce sings about his father letting young Bruce steer the family car through the streets of Freehold, New Jersey, I thought about my own father letting me do the same thing in Eldon, Missouri. I started weeping, right there on the street, in front of strangers passing by. It felt right. (One nice thing about living in New York City is that the sight of a human being openly weeping on the street probably won’t crack the top ten strangest things a person might see on any given day.)
After the premiere of Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light – which received a rousing standing ovation here at the Sundance Film Festival – I stopped by the afterparty and immediately approached Sarfraz Manzoor, the journalist and writer the film is based on. After the film, on stage, he gave a touching speech about his father, who also died suddenly from a heart attack. Yes, the film is about his relation to the music of Bruce Springsteen, but, at its core, it’s about Manzoor’s father. During the credits, we are informed Manzoor has attended well over 100 Springsteen shows. When I mentioned my 27 shows looked paltry compared to his, Manzoor replied, “It’s not about the number of shows, it’s what a person does with the inspiration after the shows.” What a line. Anyway, Blinded by the Light hit me like a ton of bricks and I love this movie so very much.
Based on Manzoor’s book about growing up a Pakastani kid in Luton, England – and using the music of Springsteen to both cope with the racism he and his family faced, and to dream of getting out of that town (he did) – Blinded by the Light features scenes of the most pure, unadulterated joy I’ve seen on screen in quite a while. God, maybe ever.