Some of you may be familiar with the music of Bruce Springsteen. You know, ‘The Boss’? The guy who sings about being blue collar and from New Jersey and is an American icon.
Then again, some of you may not. And don’t feel too badly about that. While Bruce is still selling out stadiums and performing three-hour sets, his real heyday came in the mid-70s to 80s, when he released a string of albums that many-a-music critic has labelled The Best Ever.
Although Springsteen’s rock is very much born out of his working class, New Jersey origins (which he promptly outgrew by getting dumb famous in his mid 20s), his lyrics generally deal in themes of defiance, identity, resilience, vulnerability and being born “in” a place or born “to” do something.
As such, you can see why they might speak to a teenager unsure of his place in the world. Moreover, you can see why they might speak to a Muslim teenager unsure of himself in 1980s Britain.
So after all that scene-setting, we are going to tell you about Blinded by the Light, a new film based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor. In the book, Manzoor details how he found strength and comfort in Springsteen’s music as a teenager in 1980s Luton, where the challenges of growing up Pakistani and Muslim were compounded a decade later by the death of his father.
Following its 2007 release, the memoir caught the attention of Bend it like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha. But it wasn’t until a fortuitous encounter that the idea for a film gathered steam. In 2010, Chadha and Manzoor attended a movie premiere together. To cut a not very long story short, Springsteen was there too; he saw Manzoor and told him he like his book, Manzoor fanboy-freaked out, and Chadha saw it as the chance to get Springsteen’s blessing for a film adaptation. Springsteen told her ‘sounds good’ and the rest was history.
Last month, Blinded by the Light premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was received as a welcome, feel-good take on themes that are usually bogged down in polarising discourse.
“It’s a film that serves to bring people together with music and words. For me, this is very timely given the state of your nation (the U.S.), my nation Britain in terms of divisiveness and people calling for separation and xenophobia basically. This film is a hopeful statement,” Chadha said.
“Words can have meaning despite your cultural background. A human soul can transcend all kinds of human boundaries.”
We can’t wait to see this one. While cultures and values may differ, there are some things—songs, books, whatever—that have an almost unexplained ability to unify, empower or make us feel like anything is possible (if only for a moment).
A release date is yet to be set, but after a successful showing at Sundance Blinded by the Light will likely drop later this year.
For now, you can check out this news report on the making of the film from 2018.