Blind Activists Protest “Blindness”

Posted on October 2, 2008 at 10:12 pm

“Blindness” is the story of unnamed characters in an unnamed community who all suddenly lose their sight with just one exception, a doctor’s wife played by Julianne Moore. The newly blind citizens, along with Moore’s character, who pretends to be blind, are quarantined and quickly confront a series of tragic choices and heart-wrenching moral compromises and violations as they struggle to survive. The movie, like the novel that inspired it, is an allegory along the lines of “Lord of the Flies” or “28 Days Later.”
The National Federation of the Blind has criticized the film, saying that it portrays blind people as monsters. That is not true; it portrays human beings as monsters, or at least as animals who cast off the thin veneer of civilization when their infrastructure and external controls were removed. They also say it perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes, portraying the blind as unable to care for themselves and navigate. Again, that is not true. It portrays people who suddenly become blind and have no support services or training as having a very difficult adjustment. Indeed, there is one character who was blind before the epidemic, and the movie makes it clear that he does have the skills to use a cane and a braille machine.
Once again, misplaced activism attacks the most superficial details of a movie without taking time to understand that it is on their side.

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While We’re On the Subject of Disabilities

Posted on August 26, 2008 at 8:00 am

The disability advocates who are picketing “Tropic Thunder” should take a look at “The House Bunny.” It is a much more worthwhile target for their complaints. In that movie, the title character becomes the house mother for a sorority of dorks and losers. She transforms them all with a little mascara, some skimpy clothes, and some tips on how to talk to boys. A few free drinks and an “Aztec virgin sacrifice” party blow-out later, and they’re the most popular girls on campus. One of characters is a young woman wearing a brace for scoliosis, played by Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore (far right in the photo).house bunny.jpg The movie also includes a character whose only characteristic is being very short, another defining condition played only for laughs. You can see only a portion of her arm in this publicity photo, which tells you everything you need to know about the role she plays in the movie.
As usual with a disabled character like the girl in the brace, the disability is her only characteristic and we never learn anything else about her. SPOILER ALERT: Incredibly, the plot resolution for this character is that the brace simply falls off of her as she runs (like “Forrest Gump”), with a little help from the former bunny. It turns out she has not needed the brace for four years but kept it on because she was shy. Instead of taking the opportunity to show us a disabled character who is comfortable with her disability and is able to have a full life of studies and friends, the movie implies that no one can be popular and confident with a back brace.

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Interview with Ilana Trachtman, director of “Praying with Lior”

Posted on March 22, 2008 at 8:00 am

Ilana Trachtman found the subject of her documentary, “Praying with Lior,” at Rosh Hashanah services. Lior has Down syndrome. His devotion to prayer has inspired the members of his close and loving Jewish community in Philadelphia. But the movie is not just about him. It is the story of a family.
Trachtman was a successful director of television programs . Her work was meaningful and satisfying and she was not looking for an independent film project.
What happened?
I prayed with Lior, that’s what happened to me. I was feeling estranged from prayer and went to a Rosh Hashanah retreat. The morning service was very long. I was counting the pages, thinking of what we would eat when services were over. It was literally like hearing a call. Behind me there was this off-key but consistently engaged and enthusiastic voice. I was really compelled because I had never seen anyone like Lior in services before. I grew up in a huge synagogue that never had anyone like Lior. Lior_postfront-1.jpgThe struggle I had with prayer, this person with half my IQ seemed so natural. I was filled with curiousity and envy. This was in the fall. His bar mitzvah was in May. I needed to get started quickly.

How did you get the permission of the family?

I expected I would have to do a lot of explaining, but when I started talking, Lior’s father said, “We’ve always wanted to do a documentary about the bar mitzvah.” That same spirit of generosity pervaded the entire experience. It was one miraculous moment after another on every level, a very b’shert (destined) experience all the way along.


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