Accompanied by professional guides and blind educator Sabryie Tenberken, six blind teenagers from Tibet set out to climb the 23,000-foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest. The dangerous journey soon becomes a seemingly impossible challenge, but led by famous blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmaye, the students are inspired to climb higher than they have ever been before. The three-week journey is beyond anything any of them could have predicted.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Blindsight is not the aspirational, triumphal, follow-your-dreams kinda doco that you may expect. Instead, it is a frank, clear sighted and immersing film about the challenge that faces not just the blind youngsters but their guides and supporters. The first discovery (for me, anyway) is that in Tibet the blind are not merely marginalised but despised, cursed and belittled. To be blind is to be worthless. This is the context in which Sabriye Tenberken, a young German woman who had herself gone blind, set up a school for blind Tibetan children, Braille Without Borders, in Lhasa.
Following blind mountaineer Erik Weinhenmayer's successful Everest climb in 2001, the blind kids of Tibet felt a surge of self-worth and Sabryie took up the challenge of helping some of them (the fittest) to make an attempt at one of the peaks in the Himalaya chain for themselves. While we don't see the commercial deals struck to make it happen, we get involved in the many in-depth arguments and debates about how to manage this unusual expedition, when the going gets really tough.
The flinty mountain passes are merely physical hurdles to overcome as the group moves ever higher. The film in Lucy Walker's sympathetic hands becomes an instructional video on the human condition, as she gathers footage of the blind students from their past. Some of their stories are heartbreaking, but Lucy tells it like it is, without overt sentimentality.
Some sensational scenery is revealed to us which the blind kids of course can't enjoy. But they do get a kick from the tactile elements, and several of them enjoy substantial long term emotional benefits from the exercise.
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PRODUCER: Sybil Robson
DIRECTOR: Lucy Walker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Brown, Petr Cikhart, Keith Partridge, Mahyad Tousi, Lucy Walker
EDITOR: Sebastian Duthy
MUSIC: David Christophere, Nitin Sawhney
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 7, 2008