Peter Middleton & James Spinney (UK)

Notes on Blindness

In 1983, after decades of steady deterioration, writer and academic John Hull became totally blind. ‘I knew that if I didn’t understand blindness, it would destroy me’, he says. To help him make sense of the upheaval in his life, he began keeping a diary on audiocassette. To the outside world John appears to be adjusting well. But alone with his tape recorder, he describes his quiet desperation. He identifies the pain of the newly blind as a hunger. His mind longs for visual stimulation as the lungs gasp for air. His memories, too, no longer replenished and renewed, are forever suspended in the past.

The arrival of New Year 1984 brings a small epiphany: John notes how the sound of heavy rainfall gives shape, detail and contour to his environment. The experience offers him a lifeline, a sense of reconnection to the world. His blindness becomes a world of adventure, awakening a new appreciation of sound and touch, and an expanding sense of territory and control.

In three years Hull recorded over sixteen hours of material, a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness. Author and neurologist Oliver Sacks described his diaries as, ‘A masterpiece… The most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read.’

The award winning documentary Notes On Blindness encompasses not only John’s original audio recordings but also new interviews with John and his wife embedded in cinematic interpretations and completed by an enhanced soundtrack which makes it a film experience that also a blind and partially sighted audience can enjoy. Next to the feature length documentary there is also an award winning virtual reality app called Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness released alongside the film.