Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas, Blindsight follows the gripping true-life adventure of six blind Tibetan teenagers on a climbing expedition up a summit near Mount Everest. Impaired vision presents challenges under the best of circumstances, but the Tibetan teenagers of Blindsight must also contend with poverty and discrimination.
In their culture, people believe that blindness results from demonic possession or crimes committed in a past life. Fortunately, German-born Sabriye Tenberken, blind since 12, founded Lhasa’s Braille Without Borders to provide them with education and self-reliance. In 2004, she invites American author Erik Weihenmayer to visit. After he lost his sight, his father encouraged him to climb mountains, and Erik would go on to scale the world’s seven highest summits.
Through photographs and home movies, director Lucy Walker (Devil’s Playground) captures Sabriye and Erik as children; it’s clear they enjoyed distinct advantages over their Tibetan counterparts. Erik believes Sabriye’s students would also benefit from climbing, so they select six, pair them with guides, and begin preparations for a trek up the giant looming in their backyard: Mt. Everest (specifically Lhakpa-Ri).
Things proceed according to plan until Tashi, a former beggar, starts to lag behind. Then Kyila falls prey to altitude sickness. The Western team finds themselves with a dilemma: Should they send down the sick and continue climbing, or call off the expedition? At this point, Walker’s documentary shifts from a sociological study to an unlikely thriller.
Though she neglects to explore some avenues in sufficient depth, like the death of Erik’s mother, Blindsight is moving, suspenseful, and inspiring–and the sequence in which the kids sing “Happy Together” surely ranks as one of cinema’s most transcendent.
|Support for this event was provided by the Utah Arts and Museums Program.|
|Support for this event provided by The National Endowment for the Arts|
|Support for this event was provided by the Washington County Library.|