In Going Blind (2010) former network TV news producer and documentarist Joseph Lovett aims his camera at sightless or visually challenged New Yorkers. The idea is to show us how individuals cope with blindness.
His interest is more than academic. Adding emotional urgency to his quest is the fact that Lovett is himself going blind.
He’s been battling glaucoma for 20 years and despite numerous medications and surgeries (he’s had tiny holes drilled in his eyeballs to relive the inner pressure), his field of vision continues to shrink.
Now, Lovett says, he’s unable to recognize his own significant other on a crowded New York street. All tall, gray-haired men look the same to him.
“What happens,” he wonders, “when I can’t read a newspaper, drive a car or see a sunset or the faces of people I love?
It’s a terrifying prospect, but not necessarily a hopeless one.
Blindness is compounded by the reaction of her friends and family. “As much as they love me, I want to shake them and yell, ‘It’s still me! Don’t treat me like eggshells.’”
Another subject says she makes sighted persons nervous. Is our fear of blindness, Lovett wonders, so great that we fear the blind themselves?
He talks to a father and son whose limited vision is the result of their shared albinism, and to older citizens with macular degeneration.
Perhaps most moving of all is Steve, who lost his eyesight in combat but continues to fight to achieve independence and a sense of normalcy.
The films displays some of the new technology aimed at the sightless, like computer programs that allow scanned pages to be read aloud (albeit in one of those dead machine voices); the film also gives us a feel for the intense training that makes the vision impaired and their canine partners one smoothly functioning unit.
By film’s end Lovett is still upset about his fading eyesight, but admits that he now feels a hope that wasn’t there before.
“What was once unthinkable,” he says, “is now quite doable.”
About the Author
Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He's married to the former Ellen Vaughan; they are the proud parents of LA-based comedian, writer, director and TV personality Blair Butler. He used to be a dog person but now lives with two cats, thus demonstrating the flexibility of the human condition.