Resurrecting Hassan (Proto, 2016): Canada

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the American Film Institute’s 2017 AFI DOCS Film Festival. Resurrecting Hassan is one of the most unusual films I have ever viewed. Director Carlo Guillermo Proto’s film highlights a family of blind musicians as they splinter and navigate their lives and existence. With seemingly untethered access having provided the family members with Super 8mm cameras, Proto weaves an intricate inner landscape with laser-like precision.

The film opens in a modern documentary style with non-diagetic music setting the tone. Proto quickly introduces the viewer to a world filled with change as he films from a high-speed, moving vehicle transitioning to extreme close-ups of the Harting family, the film’s protagonists. here, Proto introduces a voice-over to bridge the ensuing jump cut to the family blindly walking, arms linked as they make their way towards a house, navigating a standard set of porch stairs to an entrance. The voice begins a countdown as the family waits to enter.

Proto transitions to a distorted frame through a glass storm door. Then proceeds with another jump cut as the voice continues its countdown revealing the family seated until a cross cut shows the bearded man who has been providing the voice to the voice over. He continues the countdown as the film reveals the a woman in a horizontal position cutting back to the blind family members with extreme close-ups.

After finishing the countdown, the leader asks for the mind to be cleared and open and to inform him when this is accomplished. The medium then begins some unintelligible gibberish initiating the connection. Soon, it is revealed the family has come to resurrect their son, Hassan, who passed away a few years before. Here the film regresses providing background on Hassan and his influence on the family.

Afterwards, Proto continues moving forward jumping next into the family’s home and daily routines revealing a highly intelligent family dynamic. The father, Denis, delves into astrology while being drawn to emergent technologies of consciousness and one of its proponent guru’s Gregory Grabovoy.

While Denis explores this altered dimension of reality, his wife Peggy begins an online relationship with another blind human named Philippe. Meanwhile, their slightly autistic daughter, Lutviah, deals with issues of becoming an adult. Along the way, Proto highlights the family’s considerable vocal talent and the volatile emotional outbursts of Denis. Eventually, Peggy informs Denis she is leaving to go and spend Christmas with Phillipe and his family. Denis is distraught and returns to the spiritualist and his medium for guidance and clarity.

Resurrecting Hassan never really achieves any kind of cohesive clarity. Nevertheless, it introduces the audience to a lovable family and to the world of seekers of consciousness. In an interview with AFI DOCS, Proto discusses the issue of filming and presenting the family in accordance with the film’s initial premise of their goal of resurrecting Hassan. Seemingly, the family decided it preferred exploring the relationship split. According to Proto a massive discussion ensued with the family agreeing to Resurrecting Hassan and, if the film generated enough interest, to participate in a making a follow up documentary.

While, I cannot recommend this film, I can say, from my experience, the viewer who has the courage to engage in this cinematic experience will emerge  forever altered, changed.

 

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