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Blind activists plan protest of movie 'Blindness' By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Sep 30, 7:28 PM ET
Blind people quarantined in a mental asylum, attacking each other, soiling themselves, trading sex for food. For Marc Maurer, who's blind, such a scenario — as shown in the movie "Blindness" — is not a clever allegory for a breakdown in society.
Instead, it's an offensive and chilling depiction that Maurer fears could undermine efforts to integrate blind people into the mainstream.
"The movie portrays blind people as monsters, and I believe it to be a lie," said Maurer, president of the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind. "Blindness doesn't turn decent people into monsters."
The organization plans to protest the movie, released by Miramax Films, at 75 theaters around the country when it's released Friday. Blind people and their allies will hand out fliers and carry signs. Among the slogans: "I'm not an actor. But I play a blind person in real life."
The movie reinforces inaccurate stereotypes, including that the blind cannot care for themselves and are perpetually disoriented, according to the NFB.
"We face a 70 percent unemployment rate and other social problems because people don't think we can do anything, and this movie is not going to help — at all," said Christopher Danielsen, a spokesman for the organization.
"Blindness" director Fernando Meirelles, an Academy Award nominee for "City of God," was shooting on location Thursday and unavailable for comment, according to Miramax. The studio released a statement that read, in part, "We are saddened to learn that the National Federation of the Blind plans to protest the film `Blindness.'"
The NFB began planning the protests after seven staffers, including Danielsen, attended a screening of the movie in Baltimore last week. The group included three sighted employees.
"Everybody was offended," Danielsen said.
Based on the 1995 novel by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, "Blindness" imagines a mysterious epidemic that causes people to see nothing but fuzzy white light — resulting in a collapse of the social order in an unnamed city. Julianne Moore stars as the wife of an eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo) who loses his sight; she feigns blindness to stay with her husband and eventually leads a revolt of the quarantined patients.
The book was praised for its use of blindness as a metaphor for the lack of clear communication and respect for human dignity in modern society.
Miramax said in its statement that Meirelles had "worked diligently to preserve the intent and resonance of the acclaimed book," which it described as "a courageous parable about the triumph of the human spirit when civilization breaks down."
Maurer will have none of it.
"I think that failing to understand each other is a significant problem," he said. "I think that portraying it as associated with blindness is just incorrect."
The protest will include pickets at theaters in at least 21 states, some with dozens of participants, timed to coincide with evening showtimes. Maurer said it would be the largest protest in the 68-year history of the NFB, which has 50,000 members and works to improve blind people's lives through advocacy, education and other ways.
The film was the opening-night entry at the Cannes Film Festival, where many critics were unimpressed.
After Cannes, Meirelles retooled the film, removing a voice-over that some critics felt spelled out its themes too explicitly.
Meirelles told The Associated Press at Cannes that the film draws parallels to such disasters as Hurricane Katrina, the global food shortage and the cyclone in Myanmar.
"There are different kinds of blindness. There's 2 billion people that are starving in the world," Meirelles said. "This is happening. It doesn't need a catastrophe. It's happening, and because there isn't an event like Katrina, we don't see."
Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Émis par le National federation of blind le 30 septembre 2008
National Federation of the Blind Condemns and Deplores the Movie "Blindness"
From the National Federation of the Blind (9/30):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Public Relations Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
National Federation of the Blind Condemns and Deplores the Movie Blindness
Protests Planned Across America on Opening Day
Baltimore, Maryland (September 30, 2008): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced its strong objections to the forthcoming Miramax film release Blindness and announced that its members would protest at cinemas across the nation when the movie opens on October 3. The film is based on a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago, in which the inhabitants of an unnamed city suddenly go blind. Fearing that the mysterious blindness is contagious, the government quarantines the blinded citizens in an abandoned asylum, where moral, social, and hygienic standards quickly deteriorate and the blind extort valuables, food, and sex from one another. Only one woman, played in the film by Julianne Moore, remains able to see, feigning blindness to remain with her husband. She is portrayed as physically, mentally, and morally superior to the others because she still has her sight.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind condemns and deplores this film, which will do substantial harm to the blind of America and the world. Blind people in this film are portrayed as incompetent, filthy, vicious, and depraved. They are unable to do even the simplest things like dressing, bathing, and finding the bathroom. The truth is that blind people regularly do all of the same things that sighted people do. Blind people are a cross-section of society, and as such we represent the broad range of human capacities and characteristics. We are not helpless children or immoral, degenerate monsters; we are teachers, lawyers, mechanics, plumbers, computer programmers, and social workers. We go to church, volunteer our time for worthy causes, raise children, operate businesses, and engage in recreational activities, just like everyone else. Portraying the blind on movie screens across America as little better than animals will reinforce the unfounded fears, misconceptions, and stereotypes in the general public about blindness. It will exacerbate the unemployment rate among the blind, which is already higher than 70 percent because of public misconceptions about the capabilities of blind people. It will reinforce false public notions that blind children are ineducable, that blind adults are unemployable, and that all blind people are socially undesirable. Blindness has been played for laughs in the past on the movie screen, but this film does something worse: it makes the blind objects not of mere ridicule but of fear and loathing. For Miramax and its parent company, the Walt Disney Company, to portray the blind in this manner, even as alleged allegory or so-called social commentary, is outrageous and reprehensible–and it is a lie.”