[Colorado-talk] Fwd: [nabs-l] Fwd: Blindness -MovieDirectorFernando Meirelles interview

diane mcgeorge rmcgeorge at comcast.net
Sun Nov 23 22:54:33 UTC 2008

Well,  you guys, I didn't really expect any response to what I wrote but I 
appareciate your considered comments.  'm sure there are others on this list 
who disagree and that's what the world is about.  But Arielle has captured 
exactly what I was hoping people would capture from my comments as did 
Alicia.  Let's not waste our time defending the actions we take which 
hundreds of us felt were necessary to take.  Let's get on with the business 
of what we do best--changing lives for all of us in a meaningful, productive 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Arielle Silverman" <arielle71 at gmail.com>
To: "NFB of Colorado Discussion List" <colorado-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2008 3:41 PM
Subject: Re: [Colorado-talk] Fwd: [nabs-l] Fwd: 
Blindness -MovieDirectorFernando Meirelles interview

> Hi Diane and all,
> Diane, I agree with you completely. When I first heard about the
> Blindness film synopsis  and the NFB protests, I had no  question in
> my mind that the film was a disgrace to all blind people and nothing
> else. I was upset about the film's release and blogged a bit about it,
> and I got back several responses from both blind and sighted people
> arguing that the film is simply allegorical, doesn't depict true blind
> people, and so on. I frankly found this reaction to be a frightening
> sign of what the world is coming to, and how much work we still need
> to do to have our civil rights considered in the same league as other
> minorities. The fact that we live in a culture that would condemn this
> film if it were about African Americans, women or virtually any other
> group, and yet there are people of our own minority who don't see the
> problem with this film, is just beyond my comprehension. Why is it OK
> to show people going blind and then behaving like animals, when it's
> clearly not OK  to show people getting dark skin and then behaving
> like animals? The idea that there's a big difference between "blind
> people" and regular human beings who suddenly lose their sight is
> absurd. Indeed, many of our members probably have experiences with
> vision loss that parallel the initial experiences of the film
> characters when they went blind. But what's truly a sign of "the human
> spirit?" I think if people want to see the human spirit triumph, they
> need to join us in the NFB. They need to come to our conventions, hear
> our stories and see how we've made blindness into what it really is,
> and how we've overcome the negative effects of  other people's
> misunderstandings.
> Respectfully,
> Arielle
> On 11/22/08, diane mcgeorge <rmcgeorge at comcast.net> wrote:
>> all right.  I do not make it a practice to enter into these discussions 
>> but
>> I feel compelled to comment on all this back and forth re that 
>> disgraceful
>> movie.
>> All of the comments I have read so far, and that would be from Chris,
>> Arielle, Ryan, and the interview with the director, and I'm sure there 
>> are a
>> lot more I have not read--let me only comment by saying this.
>> Had we not voiced our protest of the movie, I believe we would have been
>> letting down a lot of blind people who wouldn't have known how bad the 
>> movie
>> really was.  Yes, I heard all that stuff too about how this movie was
>> supposed to depict "triumph of the human spirit" but you will notice the
>> triumph only came when people got their sight back.  That comment about
>> triumph of the human spirit is no more than a subterfuge to try to make
>> people feel good about the movie.  It was a disgraceful portrayal of
>> blindness and we could not and should not have let it go unchallenged.
>> We must not forget that many people yet today do not understand that we 
>> are
>> a true minority with all that implies.  Those people are blind as well as
>> sighted.  There were no doubt thousands of people who never understood 
>> the
>> civil rights movement when it got started in the 50's and 60's.  They
>> couldn't understand what difference it made where African Americans sat 
>> on a
>> bus or at a lunch coungter, nor did they understand why migrant workers
>> wanted to be paid the same amount of money gfor working in the fields of
>> California and Colorado as other people were paid.  And let's bring it 
>> all
>> up to today.  There are still people in sheltered employment who are not
>> paid the minimum wage, and plenty of other people think that's probably
>> okay.  After all, they don't do as much work assighted workers could do.
>> So we cannot let discrimination go unchallenged no matter what form it
>> takes.  We are a minority and we were depicted as no more than animals.
>> So let us not buy into the falacy that "they really didn't mean it that
>> way", "it was the triumph of the human spirit" and all of the other sugar
>> coated pills we are asked to swallow.
>> Well, I really got on my soapbox, didn't I?  But it distresses me when I
>> read these things and I hope we can all see beyond the obvious platitudes
>> that we hear all the time.
>> I agree with Chris completely.  Putting on sleepshades for an hour is 
>> more
>> harmful than helpful in most cases.  It only emphasizes fear people 
>> already
>> have of being blind.  My view of sleepshade training is some different 
>> than
>> others; unless it is a sustained experience with good training in
>> alternatives, it only reinforces the fears people already have about
>> blindness.  So who knows what those people did in those "blind camps"?  I
>> really don't want to think about it too much.
>>    So let's not lose sight of who we are and what we are accomplishing in
>> the NFB and keep on changing those negative attitudes every day.  Our
>> strength is in our unity and understanding of what blindness is and what 
>> it
>> is not.  We must not lose sight of the real issues.
>> Diane McGeorge
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Chris Foster" <cjfoster2000 at gmail.com>
>> To: "'NFB of Colorado Discussion List'" <colorado-talk at nfbnet.org>
>> Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 9:37 PM
>> Subject: Re: [Colorado-talk] Fwd: [nabs-l] Fwd: Blindness -
>> MovieDirectorFernando Meirelles interview
>>> Hi Arielle,
>>> Thanks so much for sending the forward.  I hope that everyone who got 
>>> the
>>> message read the forward all the way down to the end.  For someone who
>>> criticizes us for protesting something we've never seen, this director
>>> sure
>>> has a lot of nerve characterizing our organization as a big PR firm.
>>> Obviously, he is the uninformed one.  What is also very disturbing are
>>> these
>>> "Blind camps" that were mentioned in the interview.  What were they
>>> supposed
>>> to accomplish?  How can anyone truly understand blindness after an hour 
>>> of
>>> sleepshade training.  That's nothing.  And with the negative ideas that
>>> obviously went into the book and the film, it really isn't a surprise 
>>> that
>>> the director and the author don't understand why we in NFB find this 
>>> film
>>> so
>>> worrisome and hurtful to everything we endeavor to do every day.  This
>>> should be a message to all of us as to how much more work we all have to
>>> do.
>>> Thanks, Chris Foster
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: colorado-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org
>>> [mailto:colorado-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Arielle Silverman
>>> Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 7:29 PM
>>> To: NFB of Colorado Discussion List; Colorado Association of Blind
>>> Students
>>> List; Arizona Association of Blind Students List; nfbaz-talk at nfbnet.org
>>> Subject: [Colorado-talk] Fwd: [nabs-l] Fwd: Blindness - Movie
>>> DirectorFernando Meirelles interview
>>> Quite an interesting characterization of one of the NFB's biggest
>>> demonstrations...
>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> From: Corbb O'Connor <corbbo at gmail.com>
>>> Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2008 00:37:31 +0000
>>> Subject: [nabs-l] Fwd: Blindness - Movie Director Fernando Meirelles
>>> interview
>>> To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list
>>> <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>,
>>> vabs at nfbnet.org
>>> In the interest of equal opportunity of opinion, I forward this 
>>> interview
>>> to
>>> you.
>>> -----
>>> Corbb O'Connor
>>> studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway
>>> Begin forwarded message:
>>> From: LPovinelli at aol.com
>>> Date: November 19, 2008 10:06:23 PM GMT
>>> Subject: Blindness - Movie Director Fernando Meirelles interview
>>> Blindness - Fernando Meirelles interview
>>> Interview by Rob Carnevale
>>> FERNANDO Meirelles, the Brazilian director of City of God and The 
>>> Constant
>>> Gardener, talks about his latest project Blindness, the controversy
>>> surrounding it and why Stevie Wonder was involved in one of the most
>>> expensive jokes he's ever played.
>>> He also relates how the film has become an overwhelming success in his 
>>> own
>>> country even though American audiences turned their backs on it, and why
>>> author Jose Saramago was reduced to tears after seeing the film.
>>> Q. When this came back to you after the success of your other movies, 
>>> did
>>> it
>>> feel like kind of a reward for those successes?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: You know, it had nothing to do with the success of 
>>> my
>>> other movies because when [Jose] Saramago sold the rights to Niv 
>>> Fichman,
>>> the Canadian, he didn't know I was going to direct. They first developed
>>> the
>>> script and then they tried to think about the possible director. They 
>>> said
>>> they thought about me first, but I don't believe it. Saramago didn't 
>>> know
>>> I
>>> was going to do it. They just told him later.
>>> Q. How disappointed were you not to get the rights initially?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: I just moved on very quickly. There was another book
>>> that I was interested in, from the same publisher, which was City of 
>>> God.
>>> So
>>> we talked about the other one and started negotiating about City of God.
>>> So,
>>> it wasn't a big deal. At that point, I'd been doing commercials for nine
>>> years and I really wanted to move on because my life was very boring. 
>>> So,
>>> I
>>> just bought City of God and started working on it.
>>> Q. Did you talk to Saramago about the book?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: Actually, after I signed on to the project I went to
>>> Lisbon to meet him and I had a lot of questions. We met for dinner and I
>>> thought he was going to answer them but he didn't want to. He
>>> said: "It's my book and this is your film, so let's not mix them up."
>>> I really wanted to know a lot of things but in the end I think he was
>>> right.
>>> If he'd told me something about specific characters or events in the 
>>> film
>>> I
>>> would try to follow whatever he'd said and not what I was thinking. I
>>> would
>>> have been a bit divided. In the end, I was happy that he didn't want to
>>> talk
>>> about his book.
>>> Q. Did you mention any of your casting ideas, such as Julianne Moore?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: No, not at that point. His idea for the doctor's 
>>> wife
>>> was Susan Sarandon, who was also on my list. But we wanted an actress 
>>> who
>>> was a bit younger. We needed her to be 10 or 12 years younger. There 
>>> were
>>> three things he asked us: one, that the film should be spoken in 
>>> English,
>>> so
>>> it could be very international; he didn't want the story to be set in a
>>> specific place, it should be very generic; and the dog with the tears, 
>>> he
>>> said he wanted a big dog. So, we had a big dog but he hated it [laughs].
>>> Q. Has he seen the film and does he like it?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: He saw it right after Cannes. I took the film to
>>> Lisbon
>>> because he couldn't come to Cannes. I showed him in a very bad cinema
>>> screen
>>> in Lisbon and when the film finished he wouldn't say anything. He was
>>> sitting next to me and he wouldn't talk! I was sure he hated the film 
>>> and
>>> didn't know how to tell me. But then the lights came on and he was 
>>> crying.
>>> He said he was as happy to see the film as he was when he finished 
>>> writing
>>> the book. Actually, my son was seated in front of us, so when the lights
>>> turned on he turned his little camera and then at night at the hotel he
>>> put
>>> this video on YouTube.
>>> So, if you go to YouTube and put in Saramago, Blindness and maybe my 
>>> name,
>>> this is the first thing that pops up. There's like 200,000 hits already.
>>> My
>>> son's footage is more successful than mine! But it's a very moving 
>>> moment
>>> because I was so pathetically nervous next to him.
>>> I was sure he hated it. But then when he said he loved it, I kissed him. 
>>> I
>>> don't kiss people a lot. But I kissed his head because I was so moved.
>>> Q. How did he feel the film worked compared to the book, because the 
>>> book
>>> is
>>> more of an allegory and the film is more naturalistic?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: He said he liked it. He said they were different,
>>> because they had to be as there were different sensibilities and 
>>> different
>>> people telling the same story. But what he liked about it was that the
>>> spirit of the book was totally respected by the film. I came from Lisbon
>>> yesterday and the day before yesterday, we had dinner together and he
>>> presented the screening. I didn't stay to see it but before I left I 
>>> went
>>> by
>>> his house to say goodbye and he was so moved.
>>> He said: "Fernando, yesterday I watched it again and it's a great film."
>>> He
>>> talked about the violence in the film and he really loved the texture of
>>> the
>>> tension. Again, he was very, very happy, so that was good news for me.
>>> But,
>>> again, he didn't like the dog. And that's an important thing to me 
>>> because
>>> I
>>> had read this interview and among all his characters that he'd written 
>>> for
>>> this book, he was asked which was his favourite and he said: "I could 
>>> kill
>>> all my characters but the dog of tears." So, for him the dog was really
>>> important and that's why it was the only character he had something to 
>>> ask
>>> for. And I missed it!
>>> Q. Did the criticism from blind groups in America take you by surprise?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: It was not a surprise because when we were preparing
>>> the
>>> film and they read the story was going to be shot, they [The National
>>> Federation of the Blind] wrote to us and said they didn't approve of the
>>> project and they'd only approve if we sent them the script so they could
>>> revise and correct it. They were very bossy.
>>> So, we politely answered that they could have their own opinion, etc, 
>>> etc,
>>> but it was our film. So, as promised, before we released the film they
>>> told
>>> us they were going to demonstrate and they carried out demonstrations in
>>> front of 75 cinemas, which is quite a big thing. To be honest, they 
>>> missed
>>> the point completely. They thought the film tells the audience that 
>>> blind
>>> people can't be adapted, that blind people can't work because they're
>>> stupid
>>> and aggressive and it has nothing to do with blind people. It's about
>>> human
>>> nature. It's about people just going blind and losing their humanity. 
>>> It's
>>> a
>>> totally different story.
>>> Q. Did Stevie Wonder give you any feedback about it as you use one of 
>>> his
>>> songs?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: Well, that was actually a little joke that happened
>>> when
>>> we were shooting. We were waiting to shoot the scene where Gael [Garcia
>>> Bernal] was talking on the microphone to attract everyone's attention. 
>>> But
>>> before doing that, he had the microphone in his hand and so, for fun,
>>> started singing Stevie Wonder [I Just Called To Say I Love You]. I 
>>> thought
>>> that was funny and maybe we could shoot it. I wasn't sure I was going to
>>> use
>>> it but we were laughing a lot, so finally I decided to use the joke and 
>>> we
>>> bought the rights. That was the most expensive joke in my life. They
>>> charged
>>> us $50,000! But we paid.
>>> Q. You say the story in the book and the film is about human nature.
>>> So what does it say about the human nature of a group that protests
>>> against
>>> something before it's been released?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: Well, what we found out about this group is that 
>>> this
>>> organisation don't really work for blind people. It's more like a PR
>>> organisation. They want to promote the idea that there is an 
>>> organisation
>>> for blind people. Other organisations have training for blind people for
>>> adaptation or school. They don't have that. It's just a news agency and
>>> it's
>>> about promoting the idea that blind people can adapt. That's fair. But I
>>> think their decision to protest before seeing or hearing the film was
>>> really
>>> a mistake. Saramago's reply was quite aggressive. He said something 
>>> like,
>>> [with regards to human blindness] there's some people who can see but 
>>> are
>>> blind, and some blind people who are really blind but can see how stupid
>>> somebody can be.
>>> Q. Is this the first film you've made that's not been praised by the
>>> international press?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: Everybody can have their opinion. We've had some 
>>> good
>>> reviews. The Guardian here, and the LA Times gave us a good review. It 
>>> was
>>> really divided. But it's a difficult film. There's people who love the
>>> book
>>> and those who can't read it to the end. The good news is that the film 
>>> in
>>> Brazil is doing really well. We did an investment to do 300,000 tickets
>>> because it is a hard film to sell.
>>> So, we did 95 prints and we thought we were going to do 300,000 tickets.
>>> The
>>> Constant Gardener did 500,000 in Brazil, but this is a harder film so we
>>> thought that maybe it would do less. But now the film is now going to go
>>> to
>>> 900,000 and we might make a million. And that's with no investment. It's
>>> all
>>> word of mouth. We released eight weeks ago with 95 prints and still have
>>> 95
>>> prints going on because the cinemas are still packed. So, audiences are
>>> responding very well. in Mexico as well.
>>> But in the US the film didn't work at all. I don't know why. They 
>>> released
>>> it four weeks ago and now we have only 80 prints left. The American
>>> audience
>>> wasn't interested in seeing the story. They opened very wide and on the
>>> first weekend, the audience didn't show up. They saw the trailer, saw 
>>> the
>>> posters and decided they didn't want to see a depressing film. So, they
>>> didn't go. If the film hadn't been so successful in Brazil or Mexico I'd
>>> say
>>> it was a problem with the film.
>>> But I'd say it's a cultural thing. Maybe the election is really creating 
>>> a
>>> tension. In this financial crisis, people are losing their jobs, losing
>>> their houses and losing their investments. It's not a good moment for 
>>> dark
>>> stories. because in the same week that we released Blindness, Beverly
>>> Hills
>>> Chihuahua opened on the same day and was a big hit!
>>> Q. The blindness camps sounded like an interesting part of the process,
>>> which you took part in as well. What did you discover about yourself 
>>> while
>>> doing that, because it makes you confront one of every person's worst
>>> nightmares?
>>> Fernando Meirelles: You know, we had groups where we blindfolded people
>>> for
>>> hours and did different exercises. In every group, there was always two 
>>> or
>>> three people who, at some point after two or three hours, would sit down
>>> and
>>> cry. They really, really couldn't go on - but we wouldn't let them take
>>> off
>>> the blindfold. Somebody would go there and say: "No, let's keep going."
>>> But
>>> for me, it was the opposite. It was so comfortable and so cosy. I 
>>> remember
>>> I
>>> did it twice. The first time we did a lot of things and we were taken to 
>>> a
>>> restaurant, we were served and we had to eat while blindfolded. After
>>> lunch,
>>> the guy said we could remove our blindfolds but I didn't want to. I 
>>> think
>>> I
>>> stayed with the blindfold for another eight minutes. It was so pleasant
>>> being with myself. It's so good because when you're talking to people 
>>> you
>>> don't see their faces. When I'm talking to you [now] I have expressions,
>>> I'm
>>> trying to engage you. But if you can't see, it's much more free. It's so
>>> liberating.
>>> Another thing I've found, which is so interesting, is that when you're
>>> blindfolded and you're talking to somebody the conversation goes to 
>>> places
>>> that it would never go if you could see the other person's reaction. You
>>> start talking about very intimate things. It's such an interesting
>>> experience. I recommend maybe Sunday morning and spending the day in a
>>> blindfold. It's really, really interesting.
>>> Delicious
>>> Digg
>>> Reddit
>>> Facebook
>>> Stumbleupon
>>> Quite apart from his incorrect characterization of our objections to his
>>> movie, Mr. Meirelles proves in this interview that he knows nothing 
>>> about
>>> the National Federation of the Blind and what we do. We operate three
>>> model
>>> training centers in the United States that offer the best available
>>> rehabilitation training to help people adapt to blindness, and we are 
>>> very
>>> involved in mentoring blind youth and encouraging them to participate in
>>> careers that are falsely thought to be closed to the blind. And those
>>> things
>>> are just the tip of the iceberg. In our sixty-eight years of existence, 
>>> we
>>> have done more good for blind people than any single organization that
>>> claims to "work for the blind." This is because we are an organization 
>>> of
>>> blind people, and blind people are in the best position to know what 
>>> blind
>>> people truly need. The biggest problem that blind people face is the
>>> public
>>> misconceptions and misunderstandings about blindness and blind people, 
>>> so
>>> public education is a critically important part of our mission, but it 
>>> is
>>> not true to say that we are simply a "PR organization."
>>> - Chris Danielsen    Nov 19    #
>>> One site has it all. Your email accounts, your social networks, and the
>>> things you love. Try the new AOL.com today!
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