EVERYTHING THE LIGHT TOUCHES: A Profound & Touching Portrait
Everything the Light Touches is an introspective look at a Welsh Elvis impersonator, and also manages to be something even more profound.
I’m standing in the back of a small cinema at this year’s Wales International Documentary Festival, it’s dark and I’m wondering whether to pass on the film that started after I left my seat. In the darkness I meet two people: filmmakers. One’s film I have seen already, the other tells me hers is on later; a film about an Elvis impersonator. Because of mix-ups over screens I miss the film but I meet the filmmaker, Ellen Evans, again and she emails me a copy of her film. And I’m so glad she did, because Everything The Light Touches is as profound and engaging as it is well made.
More Than This
On the surface Everything The Light Touches is about Welsh Elvis impersonator Juan Lozano. A man who would appear to be in his early fifties, he lives in the depth of the Welsh valleys, and makes what seems to be a good living as an Elvis impersonator and singer for hire. But Juan is so much more than this, and the film’s maker, Ellen Evans, sees that.
Juan aches to be taken seriously as a singer and songwriter in his own right, and is driven by a desire for success. He’s intriguing and charismatic, his watery blue eyes captivate the camera, as he engages directly with Evans and ultimately us as an audience. He speaks of his success with great confidence, and talks openly about the future he sees for himself. You may well suspect that this a man with grand delusions, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Juan is a complex man, and one with great doubts.
He speaks so warmly about his home, his place in the community, and his passion for the Welsh Valleys. And while he speaks confidently about future success he appears to fear the world outside of the one he has created for himself. He is not oblivious to this fact either, he is aware of his own arrested development, and understands that he is clinging on to a dream while the rest of his school friends have moved on. He is also aware of how much his passion for success has affected, and damaged, other aspects of his life. And it is through this introspection, possibly brought on by the presence of Evans’ camera, that Juan finally makes a decision to change.
However, even without this dramatic decision the film succeeds. Because it is a film which fully grasps a familiar, yet mainly hidden part of the human psyche; the plight of the dreamer, the fear of failure. Juan hides beneath the Elvis persona, in his hometown, and it has held his life back. But we’re never asked to feel sorry for him, or even be entertained by him, we’re merely meant to understand him. And it is this understanding of the simple human condition that makes Everything The Light Touches a real gem.
It is truly hard to believe that this is a student film. Made as the final project for her MA Ethnography and Documentary Film by Practice, Ellen Evans has shown herself to be an enthusiastic and, above all, considerate, documentarian. Her camera, while in Juan’s space, is relaxed yet focused, as though the camera itself were a friend drinking coffee at Juan’s kitchen table. Evans asks all the right questions, she wanders into Juan’s mind yet gives him the time and space to open up. She never pushes him, she is patient, and it is the relationship between these two that makes this film as good as it is.
Everything The Light Touches is a fascinating film, it takes a simple premise; an Elvis impersonator, and reveals the incredible number of layers, and stories, to the man beneath. It is sympathetic and understanding and doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of Juan’s life, and the problems that he has encountered. Not many documentarians can face head-on what a subject offers, and delve further, but Evans has. And by keeping the film simple, and undertaking its making primarily alone, Evans has kept the intention of the film clear and precise. Because of this, Juan Lozano, through Evans’ eyes, becomes much more than a man, he becomes a hero.
Everything The Light Touches will be making its way into UK film festivals this year, follow us on @FilmInquiry for updates on where you might see it.
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