Tuesday, September 30, 2008

National Federation of the Blind resolution against the movie "Blindness"

From the National Federation of the Blind in 2007:

RESOLUTION 2007-09 Regarding a Screenplay Called Blindness

WHEREAS, the book entitled Blindness, by Jose Saramago, has now been adapted as a screenplay to be directed by Fernando Meirelles, the filming beginning this summer with an anticipated release of next spring; and

WHEREAS, the plot of the book perpetuates society’s fears and misconceptions of blindness in the worst possible manner: the premise of the novel is that an epidemic of blindness is sweeping through a city; the blindness is extremely contagious, though it is unclear exactly how it is transmitted; the people simply, very suddenly, become blind; the blindness is described as a white "sea of milk" known by some as "the white evil" the blind are placed in an abandoned medical facility gated and guarded by armed military personnel to limit their contact with the populace; and

WHEREAS, the book depicts blindness as tragic and hopeless: “If I have to stay like this, I'd rather be dead”; and

WHEREAS, the story involves explicit images of those confined losing all civility—stealing from one another; relieving themselves in hallways and other public areas; using extortion to secure food and sex; committing adultery and murder; and engaging in repeated gang rapes, all of which is graphically detailed; and

WHEREAS, the characters are further dehumanized by not having any names and are repeatedly alluded to as like animals: “It was too funny for words, some of the blind internees advancing on all fours, their faces practically touching the ground as if they were pigs”; and

WHEREAS, Saramago’s book includes countless stereotypes about blindness such as: “They had not been without their sight long enough for their sense of hearing to have become keener than normal”; and

WHEREAS, the only person who does not become blind is the caretaker for a small group of people who are described as better off than the others since they have someone with sight to fend for them; and

WHEREAS, numerous passages discuss the presence and smell of human waste, furthering the degradation of the blind characters—“It was not just the fetid smell that came from the lavatories in gusts that made you want to throw up, it was also the accumulated body odor of two hundred and fifty people whose bodies were steeped in their own sweat, who were neither able nor knew how to wash themselves, who wore clothes that got filthier by the day, who slept in beds where they had frequently defecated”; and

WHEREAS, reviews of the book confirm the destructive consequence of this unfortunate work with comments such as: “The novel Blindness really illustrates the difference between sighted and non-sighted,” and “Hard to know what to make of it. Are we better off learning to live with our blindness or glorying in what little we can see?”; and

WHEREAS, the presumed primacy of sight is further emphasized by comments of reviewers: “The doctor's wife somehow remains sighted, and she is able to give this small group the advantages that allow it to survive when others could not,” and “She alone seems to understand the true scope of what is happening in the story, and she alone sees the full scale of the horror that occurs”: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 2007, in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization condemn and deplore the negative, damaging, distorted description of blindness and blind people contained in the novel, Blindness by Jose Saramago, for playing on society’s fears and deepening prejudice against the blind, leading to lost opportunities in employment and social acceptance; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Fernando Meirelles, director of the screen adaptation of Blindness to abandon filming in order to limit the damage this misguided novel has already caused; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization use every means at its disposal to bring to the attention of the film’s financial supporters the serious harm that would result from demeaning and degrading blind people in such an irresponsible manner and urge them to withdraw their support of the project.