Sometimes it takes seeing things from a different perspective to realize what the big picture is. In the case of “The Light Thief” which plays at the SFIFF later this week, this small deftly made film plugs into social and environmental justice themes then wraps the story around colorful characters and a stark backdrop.
Set in a remote village in Kyrgyzstan, “The Light Thief” spotlights a local electrician, who the locals refer to as Mr. Light. His radiance shows through in the first scene where he monkeys with the wires in an old man’s house so that he doesn’t have to pay for electricity. In this case Mr. Light shows his benevolence and concern for the community as he helps them steal electricity that they can’t afford. He eventually gets caught but the villagers (as well as the audience) know that Mr. Light’s heart is in the right place.
Besides his role as a do-gooder, Mr. Light acts as an environmentalist of sorts. With his iconic energy producing windmill in his front yard, he constantly tinkers with his sustainable invention. The fact that others in his village consider him an eccentric electrician only frustrates him.
Things quickly change when a greedy developer who has his mind set to developing much of the village hires Mr. Light to not only work but expand on his windmill idea. Mr. Light soon finds himself in a dilemma – work for the greedy developer who he learns to dislike but who can make his windmill farm a reality or continue fighting the system.
This little allegory of big business and politics versus the community and the common man seems a little rough around the edges but the simple style that director Aktan Arym Kubat (The Chimp) brings home his points. Perhaps small town villagers can use The Light Thief as a rallying point for those going up against the large energy companies of the world. For those in the big cities, we just have to hope that The Light Thief sees the light of day in some movie theaters.
Screens at the SFIFF Sunday May 1