Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Blindness" screenwriter says film doesn't dehumanize blind people

Julianne Moore stars in "Blindness"

The Toronto Star interviewed Canadian writer-actor Don McKellar, 44, who wrote the screenplay and co-stars in "Blindness," which opens the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 14. It will also compete for the Palme d'Or.

"Blindness" is an adaptation of Nobel Prize winner José Saramago's 1995 novel about a society in which an epidemic causes everyone to become blind, except the doctor's wife who feigns blindness (the character Julianne Moore will play). Chaos ensues, social structures collapse, and the doctor's wife tries to lead one group of blind people to safety.

Mark Ruffalo plays the doctor, Sandra Oh plays the Minister of Health, Gael Garcia Bernal plays the king of ward 3, and Danny Glover plays the narrator, according to

Jose Saramago was reluctant for the book to be made into a film because he didn't want it to end up being a cheap thriller movie. McKellar worked eight years on the screenplay in an effort, he says, to make sure that didn't happen.

"It's partly due to my sense of responsibility of the book, which I really admired," McKellar said. "But it was also my response to Saramago's biggest fear, which was that the film would turn into an exploitation film, which is a danger with this kind of material. He and I both didn't want it to turn into a zombie film or a sci-fi horror film. It was hard to keep the tone alive, but also engaging enough so that it didn't soon grind down into horror."

Although the film is tense and scary, McKellar hopes the audience will see that the film "deals in bigger ideas than just terrifying people."

"We shouldn't be scared of blind people," he said." They're not monsters. To me, humanity is exposed when people are blind; they're not dehumanized."

The film, directed by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles, was shot in Toronto and Brazil, and I wondered several times whether any blind actors were involved in the production. If anyone knows anything, please email me.

If you can't make it to Cannes, you can watch its trailer.