belbalady.net blind cinema in china – hong kong fp
beijing hong kong fp – 07/09/2021 . 07:20
Talking Film Club..A shelter for the blind to attend cinema in China
Every Saturday, Zhang Xinsheng travels for two hours to catch a movie date with friends, navigating the capital’s confusing subway system. Chinese Beijing with his white cane and a talking map screaming directions on his mobile phone.
Zhang lost his sight in his early twenties due to an illness, but since he went blind he has discovered love Cinema At the Talking Film Club, where volunteers provide live narrations to an auditorium from blind or visually impaired moviegoers.
He said, “After listening to a movie for the first time in 2014, I felt as if a new world had opened up before me. I felt like I could understand the movie despite my blindness. There were clear images forming in my mind’s eye.”
Now 51 years old, he makes the weekly trip to a theater in Qianmen, in the heart of old Beijing, without fail.
Blind moviegoers flock to the auditorium constantly
Dozens of blind moviegoers attended Saturday’s screenings organized by the Shen Mu Theater, a small group of volunteers who were the first to present films to blind audiences in China.
Their method is surprisingly low-tech. The narrator describes what is happening on the screen, including facial expressions, unspoken gestures, settings, and costumes.
They convey visual clues that would otherwise have been missed, such as the sudden change in scenery from fallen leaves to snow that conveys the passage of time.
Last month, the group showed “A Street Cat Named Bob” – the story of a ginger cat who helps a homeless man in London quit drugs and become a popular author.
Narrator Wang Weili described what is happening on the screen:
“There is snow falling over London, a city in England. It’s a bit like Beijing but the buildings aren’t that tall,” he says between the dubbed dialogue in Chinese, a man with binoculars—two tall circular cylinders used to see distant objects—watches James singing on a street corner with Bob the Cat.
There was a sharp silence as he spoke, no one whispering or eating snacks—instead, the audience listened intently.
Wang was inspired by the idea of making films for blind audiences after a friend’s novel The Terminator.
Wang rented a small room in an old courtyard in Beijing with his savings in 2005 and started a talking movie club with a small flat-screen TV, a second-hand DVD player, and about 20 chairs.
His 20-square-meter makeshift cinema was always packed.
Explaining films to blind audiences can be a challenge, especially if the plot contains historical or fictional elements that the audience has not yet encountered.
Before showing the movie “Jurassic Park,” for example, Wang lets the audience feel several dinosaur models.
“I watch a movie at least six or seven times… and write my own detailed script,” said the entrepreneur-turned-disability activist.
The hall is now cooperating with larger cinemas for its screenings, as the coronavirus pandemic has also prompted the team to offer a streaming service with recorded audio narration.
The group has shown nearly a thousand films over the past fifteen years.
In China, there are more than 17 million people with visual impairment. According to the Chinese Association of the Blind, eight million of them are completely blind.
And over the past decade, cities across the country have built more blind lanes, added Braille signs on elevator boards, and allowed blind candidates to take exams for government and college jobs.
“The blind community has limited opportunities to participate in cultural activities,” said Downing Leung, founder of the Hong Kong Audio Description Society.
“They have been kept away from cinemas, theaters or art galleries because there is no awareness of the need for audio narration,” she added, noting, “Even audio descriptions in museums are written with sighted people in mind. They tell you about the history of something or where it was found but rarely describe what it looked like.”
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