In A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On (Një filxhan kafe dhe këpucë të reja veshur), writer-director Gentian Koçi introduces us to identical twins Agim and Gëzim (Edgar and Rafael Morais) who are deaf. They run a carpentry business, and Gëzim has a girlfriend, Ana (Drita Kabashi), who is not deaf, but is able to communicate with them in sign language. They have a relatively good life and old, dear friends.
But then, because of a rare genetic disease, first one and then the other, begin to lose their sight. The brothers are forced to face the fact that they will soon be blind and plunged into isolation. Ana is there for them, but they are so interlinked that they cannot accept being institutionalized and dependent on others.
This is a difficult story to watch, but it is presented with delicacy and believability.
The Morais brothers are Portuguese identical twins who are not deaf and learned Albanian sign language to play the roles of Agim and Gëzim.
Koçi was inspired to make the film when he read about the true story of deaf Belgian twins Marc and Eddy Verbessem, who chose assisted suicide when they learned they were going blind. For anyone who has seen or is planning to see A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On, it is important to understand that the film is inspired by, but not based on the Verbessem case. This is a critical distinction.
At one point, the brothers in the movie try to learn braille, but reject it.
It is worth recalling the true story of Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, but became active in the world. Although the early part of her life was portrayed in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker, which earned Academy Awards for Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, Keller is little known today, particularly among younger people who may not have even heard of her. A documentary about Keller, The Unconquered, won the Academy Award in 1956.
For the record, Keller lost her sight and hearing when she was 19 months old. With the help of her teacher and companion, Anne Sullivan Macy, who entered her life when she was six years old, Keller learned to read and write. Attending Radcliffe College, she became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was also a political radical who joined the Socialist Party, but found them “too slow” and switched her allegiance to the more militant Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). She was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and she was an advocate for birth control and women’s right to vote. Keller wrote several books, which were burned by the Nazis in 1933.
So what was it about Keller that gave her a lust for life in the world at large that the Verbessem brothers did not have? No doubt part of it was that the Verbessems were identical twins. However, even though she could not hear, Keller learned to speak, and she traveled around the world giving lectures. These travels exposed her to a wide variety of people. In her 1929 book, Mainstream, she made it clear that although she was deaf and blind, she was also privileged because she came from a wealthy family. She wrote, “I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment. Now, however, I learned that the power to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone.”
As for the unusual title, A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On, this is taken from the story of Marc and Eddy Verbessem.