FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Federation of the Blind Condemns and Deplores the Movie Blindness
Protests Planned Across America on Opening Day
Baltimore, Maryland (September 30, 2008): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced its strong objections to the forthcoming Miramax film release Blindness and announced that its members would protest at cinemas across the nation when the movie opens on October 3. The film is based on a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago, in which the inhabitants of an unnamed city suddenly go blind. Fearing that the mysterious blindness is contagious, the government quarantines the blinded citizens in an abandoned asylum, where moral, social, and hygienic standards quickly deteriorate and the blind extort valuables, food, and sex from one another. Only one woman, played in the film by Julianne Moore, remains able to see, feigning blindness to remain with her husband. She is portrayed as physically, mentally, and morally superior to the others because she still has her sight.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind condemns and deplores this film, which will do substantial harm to the blind of America and the world. Blind people in this film are portrayed as incompetent, filthy, vicious, and depraved. They are unable to do even the simplest things like dressing, bathing, and finding the bathroom. The truth is that blind people regularly do all of the same things that sighted people do. Blind people are a cross-section of society, and as such we represent the broad range of human capacities and characteristics. We are not helpless children or immoral, degenerate monsters; we are teachers, lawyers, mechanics, plumbers, computer programmers, and social workers. We go to church, volunteer our time for worthy causes, raise children, operate businesses, and engage in recreational activities, just like everyone else. Portraying the blind on movie screens across America as little better than animals will reinforce the unfounded fears, misconceptions, and stereotypes in the general public about blindness. It will exacerbate the unemployment rate among the blind, which is already higher than 70 percent because of public misconceptions about the capabilities of blind people. It will reinforce false public notions that blind children are ineducable, that blind adults are unemployable, and that all blind people are socially undesirable. Blindness has been played for laughs in the past on the movie screen, but this film does something worse: it makes the blind objects not of mere ridicule but of fear and loathing. For Miramax and its parent company, the Walt Disney Company, to portray the blind in this manner, even as alleged allegory or so-called social commentary, is outrageous and reprehensible–and it is a lie.”