‘Can You See Us?’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: What Changed Joseph’s Life?


Can you see us? is a Zambian film that revolves around the life of Joseph and the prejudice he had to face as a person born with albinism. As soon as Joseph was born, he was rejected by his father, Kennedy. Kennedy’s mother was completely against his marriage to Chama, and after seeing Joseph, Kennedy was convinced that his mother was right to object. He left Chama and Joseph at the hospital, declaring that he was not the father of the child. Chama begged Kennedy to accept their boy, but he was not ready to listen to her. Chama and Joseph were thrown out of the house, and luckily for Chama, a stranger went out of his way to support her.

Spoiler Alert

How was Joseph’s childhood?

When Martin realized that Chama and Joseph had no place to go, he offered them shelter. Soon, we find out in Can you see us? that Chama and Martin eventually got married, and unlike Kennedy, Martin never stopped supporting them. While Martin believed it was time for Joseph to step out of the house, Chama was afraid. She was scared that the kids in the neighborhood would say hurtful things to her little boy. Chama had never discussed his condition with Joseph. The world outside was cruel, and Chama wanted to protect her son for as long as she could. But Joseph was a curious little boy who wanted to become a part of the world he could see outside his window. One day, he stepped out to play with the kids in the neighborhood, and they shunned him away. He was called names and beaten by them. Up until then, Joseph had no clue that the world considered him different. But from that day on, he became conscious of who he was.

Martin discussed with him his condition and how ruthless the world was toward people who looked different. Martin helped Joseph understand that he was not the problem; it was the perception of the common people that needed to be changed. Joseph was eventually enrolled in school, and while most of his classmates rejected him, Sharon was different. She accepted Joseph almost immediately and became his close friend within days. She saw him for who he was, not his condition. Chama felt a sense of security when she saw her son living a normal life. Joseph also had a secret friend who was popularly known as the madman.

There were endless rumors about the madman, and for a long time, Joseph was afraid of him. But one day, when he was running away from his bullies, he met the madman. The man was nice and friendly, and Joseph realized that he, too, was a victim like him. No one cared to know him, and they passed judgment based on their first impression of the man. After watching the madman play guitar, Joseph started to develop an interest in music. While Joseph was finally getting a grip on his life, he was suddenly attacked by a group of thugs. Joseph was rescued on time, but it took him a while to completely recover from the incident.

What happened to Chama and Martin?

After the violent attack on Joseph, Chama, and Martin made up their minds to move to the city. Chama finally confessed to Martin the reason behind her apprehension about trying for another child. She was afraid of going through the same difficult journey once again, and Martin was understanding of her. Chama and Martin stepped out of their house one evening, leaving Joseph with his aunt Brenda. The next morning, Joseph received the news that his parents had passed away. It was possibly an unfortunate accident that led to their deaths. Chama’s family decided that it was better for Joseph to be sent back to Kennedy.

Joseph had guessed that Martin was not his birth father, but he could also sense that Kennedy would not be accepting of him. He simply could not trust the man who once abandoned him. Joseph was taken to Kennedy’s house against his wishes. Kennedy lived a life of luxury with his wife and children. When he saw Joseph, he could pretty much guess what it was all about. He regretted abandoning his son and decided to accept him now that life had given him another chance. The entire situation was a complete shock for his wife since she did not know about Kennedy’s past. She was completely against Joseph staying with them, but Kennedy did not care. Later, she accused Joseph of stealing her money, and Kennedy bought into her well-planned lie. Joseph was sent to boarding school, and all he had was the guitar the madman had gifted him the last time they met. Joseph’s love for music was undeterred.

What changed Joseph’s life?

Joseph’s life had been completely tragic, but that was until he was admitted to a boarding school. Joseph was surprised to see how accepting his classmates were, and he made quite a name for himself at school for being an exceptional musician. Years passed by, and one morning at school, he came across Sharon. They both could not believe that they had crossed paths after all these years. They connected almost instantly, and it was evident that Joseph was still in love with her. Sharon was mesmerized by Joseph’s voice, and she asked him to meet her neighbor, who was a music producer. Joseph agreed to it, and they ended up recording songs together. Joseph and Sharon also grew close and eventually confessed their feelings for one another. As soon as Joseph’s music was released, it became an instant hit. People fell in love with his voice, and nobody cared about his physical appearance anymore.

Over the years, Joseph had built his confidence, but he was still afraid of performing in front of a large crowd. Aunt Brenda and Sharon encouraged him, and their support helped him overcome his fear. At the end of Can you see us? Kennedy arrived at the concert to apologize to his son. Joseph was not ready to accept his apology. After the deaths of Chama and Martin, Joseph needed the support of his father, but Kennedy chose to prioritize himself over his son. Kennedy begged Joseph to forgive him for being a coward, and even though Kennedy was responsible for destroying Joseph’s life, his son chose to forgive him. Joseph decided to be the bigger person and forgive his father, though the relationship between Joseph and Kennedy would not smooth out any time soon. Joseph chose not to hold on to his grudge, but he made it clear that he no longer needed Kennedy’s support. The father-son relationship will only get better if Kennedy makes it a point to be truly there for his son. The audience fell in love with Joseph after his spellbinding performance.

After overcoming all the hardships, Joseph was able to follow his dream. People such as Martin and the madman helped Joseph to never give up on himself. From a young age, he was told that he was never the problem and that people tend to want to destroy anything that is out of the ordinary. These lessons stuck with Joseph all his life and helped him become the person that he was.

During Can you see us?‘s ending, Joseph visits the house of the madman and gifts him a guitar. He was surprised to see that Joseph remembered him after all these years. He was emotional, thinking about how, in a short span of time, he had influenced a little boy who was hiding from the world. He knew what it was to be an outcast, and he made sure that Joseph was mentally strong enough to rise above the criticism.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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