Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Thu Oct 19 2006Many thought that blind mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer had achieved the impossible when he hiked to the summit of Everest, but Lucy Walker’s thoughtful, slow-burning documentary sees him take it a step further as we trace his efforts to accompany six students from a Tibetan blind school up neighbouring peak Lhakpa Ri.
Yes, it sounds like the set-up for a suitably improbable tale about the resilience of the human spirit. And in many ways, that’s exactly what this is. But it’s also much more. In Tibet, the blind are treated with utter contempt and thought to be possessed by demons for sins committed in a former life (‘You deserve to eat your father’s corpse!’ says one bystander). Walker recognises that the ability of these kids to deflect the abuse heaped on them has supplied them with the extra mettle needed to undertake this adventure. She also takes times to explore the kids’ backgrounds: one girl lives on a farm with her blind father and two blind brothers; another boy escaped to Tibet from a life of abuse in China, having strayed from his parents as a child.
Walker’s approach to documentary is by no means revolutionary. But ‘Blindsight’ is a great example of the emotional dividends that careful photography, sensitive editing and an atmospheric score (by Nitin Sawhney) can deliver. Like Werner Herzog, she is interested in how humans can adapt body and mind to cope with the chaos of nature. As the kids get closer to the summit, the film’s philosophical undertow shifts to the fore and Walker investigates their connection to the mountain, their interaction with their American guides (who have different notions of the meaning of the trip) and their recourse to imagination in trying to visualise their experiences. Yet, despite reaching these depths, Walker’s film is amply summed up in its closing frames, as a young blind boy bellows his way through a version of the Turtles’s classic ‘Happy Together’.
Author: David Jenkins
Fri Aug 8, 2008