Tens of Thousands of Blind Americans Object to the Movie ‘Blindness’
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2008 — Residents of an unnamed city suddenly and mysteriously go blind in the movie “Blindness,” scheduled for release on Friday, Oct. 3. The dehumanizing, animalistic way that blind people are portrayed in this movie has blind people across the United States angry. Some are even organizing picket lines and waging protests at theaters where the movie is being shown.
“The movie ‘Blindness’ is a demeaning depiction of people’s reactions to losing their eyesight,” stated Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind. Dr. Ronald E. Milliman, a blind university professor and also a member of the ACB, says, “In a very mythical sense, something like what is being shown in the movie might have happened hundreds or thousands of years ago, but certainly not in any civilized society such as what we have in the United States today. The movie is at best totally misleading, and at worst serves to frighten deeply those who see it.”
In the movie, fearing that the blindness is contagious, the government quarantines the victims in an abandoned, dilapidated mental asylum, with orders that anyone attempting to leave is to be killed immediately. The prisoners are supposed to be given food and supplies, but food deliveries are inadequate and increasingly become irregular. The asylum becomes filthy because the blind inmates, as portrayed in the movie, cannot find their way to the bathroom and simply relieve themselves on the floor or in their own beds. Some of the inmates die from infection, disease, or from gunshot wounds when they try to escape.
The blind are portrayed as being unable to do anything for themselves. As food supplies diminish, one group of blind inmates, whose leader has acquired a gun and proclaims himself “the king of Ward Three,” begins to terrorize the others. The armed clique in ward three hordes all the food, extorting money and valuables from the other inmates and eventually demanding sex with the women from other wards in exchange for allowing the rest of the inmates to eat. One of the women is beaten to death as she is raped.
One of the members of this clique, who was born blind and is not a victim of the “white sickness,” knows how to read and write braille and is given the task of taking inventory of the valuables stolen from the other inmates. Rather than helping the other inmates adjust to their blindness, he uses his knowledge of how to function as a blind person to assist the criminal gang.
The rest of the inmates finally decide they have nothing to lose and do battle with the gang in ward three. During the fight, someone sets fire to a pile of bedding; the fire soon engulfs the entire asylum. When the surviving inmates escape the burning asylum, they discover that no soldiers are standing guard and they are free. Outside the makeshift prison, everyone has gone blind and the city has descended into total chaos; no government services or businesses are functioning, and nomadic groups of mostly naked blind people wander through the streets, squatting in abandoned houses and shops for shelter and taking food where they can find it –including in rubbish heaps. There is no electricity or running water, so the streets and buildings of the city are as filthy as the asylum was. Gradually, people begin to regain their sight just as suddenly and mysteriously as they went blind.
From this description, it is quite obvious why blind people would be outraged over this movie. Blind people do not behave like uncivilized, animalized creatures. Admittedly, blindness can be a frightening experience to those who lose their eyesight. However, there is an enormous amount of assistance that is available to newly blinded people. There are support groups around the country, such as the more than 70 affiliates and chapters of the American Council of the Blind. There are also all kinds of assistive devices, equipment, and aids specifically designed and produced to assist blind people with their daily living such as computers that talk, braille and talking watches and other time pieces, kitchen aids like the talking microwave, devices that can detect and tell the blind user the color of his/her clothes, and thousands of digitally recorded audio books, and much more.
Most blind people lead normal lives, just like everyone else. The only difference is that they simply cannot see. But their other senses work just fine, and they learn to replace the lack of eyesight with the keen use of their other senses.
The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization. Its members are blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted individuals who are concerned about the dignity and well-being of blind people throughout the nation. Formed in 1961, ACB is one of the largest organizations of blind people in the world, with more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates and a nationwide network of chapters and members spanning the globe.
For more information about the American Council of the Blind, contact Melanie Brunson, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005; phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free 1-800-424-8666; or visit the web site, http://www.acb.org.