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Meet the 2014 AFI Filmmakers #7: ‘Blind’ Director On How to Portray Blindness Onscreen

Meet the 2014 AFI Filmmakers #7: 'Blind' Director On How to Portray Blindness Onscreen

Indiewire invited AFI FEST directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them and the challenges they faced. The festival runs until November 13.

Although Eskil Vogt is best known for his writing (he co-wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed “Oslo, August 31st”), the Norwegian filmmaker has taken a stab at directing as well. His film award-winning drama “Blind,” which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, looks at the life of a woman who has recently lost her sight. It will now play as part of this year’s AFI Fest lineup. Vogt has also co-written the screenplay for “Louder than Bombs,” a film by Joachim Trier (“Oslo” directors) that stars Jesse Eisenberg.  

Biggest challenge in completing this project?
“The biggest challenge was also what made this project fun: portraying blindness on screen in a both convincing and cinematic way. It put a lot of pressure on the actress playing blind, but also on us filmmakers to do things differently. The “normal” way of filming invariably relies a lot on the gaze, cutting on people looking etc… In almost every scene we therefore had to push ourselves to find other ways to make the scenes work, make them true to the perception of a blind woman and her visual imagination of what’s going on around her.”

Did you crowdfund:

What camera did you shoot on?
“Arri Alexa.”

Advice for first-time filmmakers?
“Trust your instincts. On set the pressure is always on for you to say “great” and move on to the next set-up, but if a feeling in your gut says otherwise you must go for that extra take even if it bugs the hell out of everyone. If you don’t you’ll beat yourself up over it in in the editing room because that feeling is almost always spot on. It might be your first film, but 99 times out of a 100 you know best, just because you are the one that cares the most.”

Did you go to film school?
“Yes. The National French film school La fémis for four years.”

What films have inspired you?
“Too many to mention. For the writing of ‘Blind’ I revisited ‘Providence’ by Alain Resnais, but also ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ by Arthur Hiller to remind me of the (huge) comic potential of blindness. I realized Gene Wilder as deaf had the funniest scenes, though Richard Pryor as blind does have the great moment where he shouts out on the subway: “I’m not white? Why didn’t anyone tell me!” Inspiring stuff.”

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