Blindness

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Posted by bender 04/02/2009 @ 21:14

Tags : blindness, movies, cinema, entertainment

News headlines
Complaint filed against Utah Schools for Deaf and Blind - Salt Lake Tribune
These are other injustices are alleged in a 14-page complaint filed Tuesday by the National Federation for the Blind, urging the Utah State Office of Education to fix long-standing, deeply rooted problems at Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind....
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By Alyson Ward / McClatchy Newspapers FORT WORTH, Texas — A blind pianist and the youngest contender shared the top prize Sunday at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Gold medals went to Nobuyuki Tsujii, 20, of Japan and Haochen...
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Capital on their agenda was the control of "onchocerciasis", a scientific name for River Blindness. During the workshop, the scientists brainstormed on five key presentations by experts. Professor William David Taylor, project coordinator from the...
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Two patients, previously legally blind, have regained functional eyesight, while the third, who could always read the biggest letters on an eye-exam chart, is once again able to drive. The improvement has already lasted for a full 18 months,...
Sotomayor and racial politics - Atlantic Online
He said it was time to start emphasising the principle of colour blindness, and that help for disadvantaged people would be better targeted not by race but by individual circumstances - not according to whether people are black or brown,...
UK CAA Says Color-Blindness Research Could Clear More Pilots to Fly - CharterX
Colour-blindness research sponsored by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority and the US FAA, and carried out by London City University's Applied Vision Research Centre, has established a more accurate assessment of colour deficiencies in pilot applicants'...
Dovercourt: Blind Club appeals for members - Harwich and Manningtree Standard
By Andrea Collitt » A BLIND club that has been running for more than 60 years is urging more people to join it. The Harwich and Dovercourt Blind Club was formed in 1948 by the town's Rotary Club wives and those associated, including with the Inner...
BANGLADESH: Campaign to prevent child blindness, deaths - IRINnews.org
DHAKA, 8 June 2009 (IRIN) - Twenty million children across Bangladesh aged 1-5 received Vitamin A capsules on 6 June as part of a national campaign to prevent childhood blindness and deaths. The National Vitamin A Plus campaign conducted by...
Scrubbing In: Vision checkups crucial for diabetics - Philadelphia Inquirer
It is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults ages 20 to 74. Diabetes wreaks havoc on blood vessels, making them leaky and unstable, and causing all sorts of problems throughout the body. It can injure the heart, kidneys, brain, limbs,...
Enhanced Vision Supports America's Leading Event for Blind and ... - PR Web (press release)
The unique event is the only 5k championship race in the country where blind athletes compete directly against sighted athletes in a "Blindfold Challenge". "More 15 million Americans are diagnosed with blindness and low vision conditions such as...

Blindness

A tactile feature on a Canadian banknote.

Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.

Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define "blindness." Total blindness is the complete lack of form and visual light perception and is clinically recorded as "NLP," an abbreviation for "no light perception." Blindness is frequently used to describe severe visual impairment with residual vision. Those described as having only "light perception" have no more sight than the ability to tell light from dark. A person with only "light projection" can tell the general direction of a light source.

In order to determine which people may need special assistance because of their visual disabilities, various governmental jurisdictions have formulated more complex definitions referred to as legal blindness. In North America and most of Europe, legal blindness is defined as visual acuity (vision) of 20/200 (6/60) or less in the better eye with best correction possible. This means that a legally blind individual would have to stand 20 feet (6.1 m) from an object to see it—with vision correction—with the same degree of clarity as a normally sighted person could from 200 feet (61 m). In many areas, people with average acuity who nonetheless have a visual field of less than 20 degrees (the norm being 180 degrees) are also classified as being legally blind. Approximately ten percent of those deemed legally blind, by any measure, have no vision. The rest have some vision, from light perception alone to relatively good acuity. Low vision is sometimes used to describe visual acuities from 20/70 to 20/200.

By the 10th Revision of the WHO International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death, low vision is defined as visual acuity of less than 6/18 (20/60), but equal to or better than 3/60 (20/400), or corresponding visual field loss to less than 20 degrees, in the better eye with best possible correction. Blindness is defined as visual acuity of less than 3/60 (20/400), or corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees, in the better eye with best possible correction.

It should be noted that blind people with undamaged eyes may still register light non-visually for the purpose of circadian entrainment to the 24-hour light/dark cycle. Light signals for this purpose travel through the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT), so a damaged optic nerve beyond where the RHT exits it is no hindrance.

Central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with corrective glasses or central visual acuity of more than 20/200 if there is a visual field defect in which the peripheral field is contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees in the better eye.

An individual shall be considered to be blind for purposes of this title if he has central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens. An eye which is accompanied by a limitation in the fields of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees shall be considered for purposes of the first sentence of this subsection as having a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less. An individual shall also be considered to be blind for purposes of this title if he is blind as defined under a State plan approved under title X or XVI as in effect for October 1972 and received aid under such plan (on the basis of blindness) for December 1973, so long as he is continuously blind as so defined.

Kuwait is one of many nations that share the same criteria for legal blindness.

In 1987, it was estimated that 598,000 people in the United States met the legal definition of blindness. Of this number, 58% were over the age of 65. In 1994-1995, 1.3 million Americans reported legal blindness.

In the November 2004 article Magnitude and causes of visual impairment, the WHO estimated that in 2002 there were 161 million (about 2.6% of the world population) visually impaired people in the world, of whom 124 million (about 2%) had low vision and 37 million (about 0.6%) were blind.

People in developing countries are significantly more likely to experience visual impairment as a consequence of treatable or preventable conditions than are their counterparts in the developed world. While vision impairment is most common in people over age 60 across all regions, children in poorer communities are more likely to be affected by blinding diseases than are their more affluent peers.

The link between poverty and treatable visual impairment is most obvious when conducting regional comparisons of cause. Most adult visual impairment in North America and Western Europe is related to age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. While both of these conditions are subject to treatment, neither can be cured.

In developing countries, wherein people have shorter life expectancies, cataracts and water-borne parasites—both of which can be treated effectively—are most often the culprits (see River blindness, for example). Of the estimated 40 million blind people located around the world, 70–80% can have some or all of their sight restored through treatment.

In developed countries where parasitic diseases are less common and cataract surgery is more available, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy are usually the leading causes of blindness.

Eye injuries, most often occurring in people under 30, are the leading cause of monocular blindness (vision loss in one eye) throughout the United States. Injuries and cataracts affect the eye itself, while abnormalities such as optic nerve hypoplasia affect the nerve bundle that sends signals from the eye to the back of the brain, which can lead to decreased visual acuity.

People with injuries to the occipital lobe of the brain can, despite having undamaged eyes and optic nerves, still be legally or totally blind.

People with albinism often suffer from visual impairment to the extent that many are legally blind, though few of them actually cannot see. Leber's congenital amaurosis can cause total blindness or severe sight loss from birth or early childhood.

Recent advances in mapping of the human genome have identified other genetic causes of low vision or blindness. One such example is Bardet-Biedl syndrome.

Rarely, blindness is caused by the intake of certain chemicals. A well-known example is methanol, which ironically is only mildly toxic and minimally intoxicating, but when not competing with ethanol for metabolism, methanol breaks down into the substances formaldehyde and formic acid which in turn can cause blindness, an array of other health complications, and death. Methanol is commonly found in methylated spirits, denatured ethyl alcohol, to avoid paying taxes on selling ethanol intended for human consumption. Methylated spirits are sometimes used by alcoholics as a desperate and cheap substitute for regular ethanol alcoholic beverages.

Blinding has been used as an act of vengeance and torture in some instances, to deprive a person of a major sense by which they can navigate or interact within the world, act fully independently, and be aware of events surrounding them. An example from the classical realm is Oedipus, who gouges out his own eyes after realizing that he fulfilled the awful prophecy spoken of him.

In 2003, a Pakistani man named Mohammad Sajid was sentenced to be blinded under Islamic Qisas law, for blinding his fiancee after her parents called off the engagement.

A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine tested the effect of using gene therapy to help restore the sight of patients with a rare form of inherited blindness, known as Leber Congenital Amaurosis or LCA. Leber Congenital Amaurosis damages the light receptors in the retina and usually begins affecting sight in early childhood, with worsening vision until complete blindness around the age of 30.

The study used a common cold virus to deliver a normal version of the gene called RPE65 directly into the eyes of affected patients. Remarkably all 3 patients aged 19, 22 and 25 responded well to the treatment and reported improved vision following the procedure. Due to the age of the patients and the degenerative nature of LCA the improvement of vision in gene therapy patients is encouraging for researchers. It is hoped that gene therapy may be even more effective in younger LCA patients who have experienced limited vision loss as well as in other blind or partially blind individuals.

Most people, once they have been visually impaired for long enough, devise their own adaptive strategies in all areas of personal and professional management.

For corrective surgery of blindness, see acquired vision.

Designers, both visually impaired and sighted, have developed a number of tools for use by blind people.

Many people with serious visual impairments can travel independently, using a wide range of tools and techniques. Orientation and mobility specialists are professionals who are specifically trained to teach people with visual impairments how to travel safely, confidently, and independently in the home and the community. These professionals can also help blind people to practice travelling on specific routes which they may use often, such as the route from one's house to a convenience store. Becoming familiar with an environment or route can make it much easier for a blind person to navigate successfully.

Tools such as the white cane with a red tip - the international symbol of blindness - may also be used to improve mobility. A long cane is used to extend the user's range of touch sensation. It is usually swung in a low sweeping motion, across the intended path of travel, to detect obstacles. However, techniques for cane travel can vary depending on the user and/or the situation. Some visually impaired persons do not carry these kinds of canes, opting instead for the shorter, lighter identification (ID) cane. Still others require a support cane. The choice depends on the individual's vision, motivation, and other factors.

A small number of people employ guide dogs to assist in mobility. These dogs are trained to navigate around various obstacles, and to indicate when it becomes necessary to go up or down a step. However, the helpfulness of guide dogs is limited by the inability of dogs to understand complex directions. The human half of the guide dog team does the directing, based upon skills acquired through previous mobility training. In this sense, the handler might be likened to an aircraft's navigator, who must know how to get from one place to another, and the dog is the pilot, who gets them there safely.

Government actions are sometimes taken to make public places more accessible to blind people. Public transportation is freely available to the blind in many cities. Tactile paving and audible traffic signals can make it easier and safer for visually impaired pedestrians to cross streets. In addition to making rules about who can and cannot use a cane, some governments mandate the right-of-way be given to users of white canes or guide dogs.

Most visually impaired people who are not totally blind read print, either of a regular size or enlarged by magnification devices. Many also read large-print, which is easier for them to read without such devices. A variety of magnifying glasses, some handheld, and some on desktops, can make reading easier for them.

The rest read Braille (or the infrequently used Moon type), or rely on talking books and readers or reading machines. They use computers with special hardware such as scanners and refreshable Braille displays as well as software written specifically for the blind, such as optical character recognition applications and screen readers.

Some people access these materials through agencies for the blind, such as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the United States, the National Library for the Blind or the RNIB in the United Kingdom.

Closed-circuit televisions, equipment that enlarges and contrasts textual items, are a more high-tech alternative to traditional magnification devices. So too are modern web browsers, which can increase the size of text on some web pages through browser controls or through user-controlled style sheets.

There are also over 100 radio reading services throughout the world that provide people with vision impairments with readings from periodicals over the radio. The International Association of Audio Information Services provides links to all of these organizations.

Access technology such as screen readers and Screen magnifiers enable the blind to use mainstream computer applications. Most legally blind people (70% of them across all ages, according to the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind) do not use computers. Only a small fraction of this population, when compared to the sighted community, have Internet access. This bleak outlook is changing, however, as availability of assistive technology increases, accompanied by concerted efforts to ensure the accessibility of information technology to all potential users, including the blind. Later versions of Microsoft Windows include an Accessibility Wizard & Magnifier for those with partial vision, and Microsoft Narrator, a simple screen reader. Linux distributions (as Live CDs) for the blind include Oralux and Adriane Knoppix, the latter developed in part by Adriane Knopper who has a visual impairment. The Macintosh OS also comes with a built-in screen reader, called VoiceOver.

The movement towards greater web accessibility is opening a far wider number of websites to adaptive technology, making the web a more inviting place for visually impaired surfers.

Experimental approaches in sensory substitution are beginning to provide access to arbitrary live views from a camera.

People may use talking thermometers, enlarged or marked oven dials, talking watches, talking clocks, talking scales, talking calculators, talking compasses and other talking equipment.

Blind and partially sighted people participate in sports such as swimming, snow skiing and athletics. Some sports have been invented or adapted for the blind such as goalball, cricket and golf. The worldwide authority on sports for the blind is the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA). People with vision impairments have participated in the Paralympic Games since the 1976 summer Paralympics in Toronto.

Statements that certain species of mammals are "born blind" refers to them being born with their eyes closed and their eyelids fused together; the eyes open later. One example is the rabbit. In humans the eyelids are fused for a while before birth, but open again before the normal birth time, but very premature babies are sometimes born with their eyes fused shut, and opening later. Other animals such as the blind mole rat are truly blind and rely on other senses.

The theme of blind animals has been a powerful one in literature. Peter Schaffer's Tony-Award winning play, Equus, tells the story of a boy who blinds six horses. Theodore Taylor's classic young adult novel, The Trouble With Tuck, is about a teenage girl, Helen, who trains her blind dog to follow and trust a seeing-eye dog. Jacob Appel's prize-winning story, "Rods and Cones," describes the disruption that a blind rabbit causes in a married couple's life. In non-fiction, a recent classic is Linda Kay Hardie's essay, "Lessons Learned from a Blind Cat," in Cat Women: Female Writers on their Feline Friends.

The word "blind" (adjective and verb) is often used to signify a lack of knowledge of something. For example, a blind date is a date where the people involved have not previously met; a blind experiment is one in which information is kept from either the experimenter or the participant in order to mitigate the placebo effect or observer bias.

A "blind spot" is an area where someone cannot see, e.g. where a car driver cannot see because parts of his car's bodywork are in the way.

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Change blindness

In visual perception, change blindness is the phenomenon that occurs when a person viewing a visual scene apparently fails to detect large changes in the scene. For change blindness to occur, the change in the scene typically has to coincide with some visual disruption such as a saccade (eye movement) or a brief obscuration of the observed scene or image. When looking at still images, a viewer can experience change blindness if part of the image changes.

Beginning in the late 1980s, research began to reveal that other forms of visual disruption besides eye movements could also induce relatively poor change detection. Pashler (1988) showed that observers were quite poor at detecting changes introduced into arrays of letters while the display was flickered off and on, even if the offset was as brief as 67 milliseconds (although offsets briefer than that produced better change detection). He concluded by noting that people report having a "clear sense of apprehending the identities and locations of large numbers of objects in a scene" (p. 377), and that given these introspections, it seemed surprising that people's ability to detect changes proved to be so poor.

Other studies showed that change detection is also poor when the change is introduced during a cut or pan in a motion picture, even when the change is to the central actor in a scene (Levin & Simons, 1997). People also regularly fail to notice editing errors in commercial movies, despite the intense scrutiny of movies during the production process.

Change blindness can be particularly dramatic when changes occur unexpectedly, with many observers even failing to notice when a person they were talking to was surreptitiously replaced by a different actor (Simons & Levin, 1998). Change blindness has now been shown to occur with a wide variety of visual disruptions (e.g., blinks, transient noise flashed on a display, etc).

Change blindness may be related to other induced failures of awareness, such as inattentional blindness. A crucial difference is that successful change detection in the presence of a visual disruption requires a comparison of one image to another one held in memory. Consequently, change blindness can occur due to a failure to store the information in the first place or to a failure to compare the relevant information from the current scene to the representation (hence models of visual short term memory may be important for understanding the phenomenon). In contrast, inattentional blindness reflects the failure to detect an unexpected stimulus that is fully visible in a single display – it does not require a comparison to memory.

It has been shown that change blindness can even occur immediately after an observer has identified all of the objects in a display. Becker and Pashler (2002) had observers name the highest digit in an array of digits exposed for 2 seconds, at which time the display flickered off and on (with one of the digits changed). Even though observers were almost perfect at naming the highest digit in the initial display, they were still performing at the usual, relatively low, level in spotting the change. When the highest digit itself changed, though, this change was almost always noticed.

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Blindness (film)

Blindness poster.jpg

Blindness is a 2008 dramatic thriller film that is an adaptation of the 1995 novel of the same name by José Saramago about a society suffering an epidemic of blindness. The film is written by Don McKellar and directed by Fernando Meirelles with Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo as the main characters. The novel's author originally refused to sell the rights for a film adaptation. The producers were able to acquire it with the condition that the film would be set in an unrecognizable city. Blindness premiered as the opening film at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2008, and the film was released in the United States on October 3, 2008.

Blindness is the story of an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness - known only as the "White Sickness" - afflicting nearly everyone in an unnamed city, and the social breakdown that swiftly follows. The film follows the misfortunes of a handful of characters who are among the first to be stricken and centers on an ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife (Julianne Moore), several of the doctor’s patients, and assorted others, thrown together by chance. This group bands together in a family-like unit to survive by their wits and by the unexplained good fortune that the doctor’s wife has escaped the blindness. The sudden onset and unexplained origin and nature of the blindness cause widespread panic, and the social order rapidly unravels as the government attempts to contain the apparent contagion and keep order via increasingly repressive and inept measures.

The first part of the film follows the experiences of the central characters in the filthy, overcrowded asylum where they and other blind people have been quarantined. Hygiene, living conditions, and morale degrade horrifically in a very short period, mirroring the society outside.

Anxiety over the availability of food, caused by delivery irregularities, act to undermine solidarity; and lack of organization prevents the internees from fairly distributing food or chores. Soldiers assigned to guard the asylum and look after the well-being of the internees become increasingly antipathetic as one soldier after another becomes infected. The military refuse to allow in basic medicines, so that a simple infection becomes deadly. Fearing a break out, soldiers shoot down a crowd of internees waiting upon food delivery.

Conditions degenerate further, as an armed clique gains control over food deliveries, subjugating their fellow internees and exposing them to rape and deprivation. Faced with starvation, internees do battle and burn down the asylum, only to find that the army has abandoned the asylum, after which the protagonists join the throngs of nearly helpless blind people outside who wander the devastated city and fight one another to survive.

The story then follows the doctor and his wife and their impromptu “family” as they attempt to survive outside, cared for largely by the doctor’s wife, who still sees (though she hides this fact at first). The breakdown of society is near total. Law and order, social services, government, schools, etc., no longer function. Families have been separated and cannot find each other. People squat in abandoned buildings and scrounge for food; violence, disease, and despair threaten to overwhelm human coping. The doctor and his wife and their new “family” eventually make a permanent home and are establishing a new order to their lives when one of the men in their group suddenly recovers from his blindness, giving the others hope that the blindness may suddenly lift as quickly and inexplicably as it came.

The rights to the 1995 novel Blindness were closely guarded by author José Saramago. Saramago explained, "I always resisted because it's a violent book about social degradation, rape, and I didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands." Director Fernando Meirelles had wanted to direct a film adaptation of Blindness in 1997, perceiving it as "an allegory about the fragility of civilization". Saramago originally refused to sell the rights to Meirelles, Whoopi Goldberg, or Gael García Bernal. In 1999, producer Niv Fichman and Canadian screenwriter Don McKellar visited Saramago in the Canary Islands. Saramago allowed their visit on condition that they not discuss buying the rights. McKellar explained the changes he intended to make from the novel and what the focus would be, and two days later he and Fichman left Saramago's home with the rights. McKellar believed they had succeeded where others had failed because they properly researched Saramago; he was suspicious of the film industry and had therefore resisted other studios' efforts to obtain the rights through large sums of money alone. Conditions set by Saramago were for the film to be set in a country that would not be recognizable to audiences, and that the canine in the novel, the Dog of Tears, should be a big dog.

Meirelles originally envisioned directing the film in Portuguese similar to the novel's original language, but instead directed the film in English, believing, "If you do it in English you can sell it to the whole world and have a bigger audience." A change that the director pursued was placing the film in a contemporary setting, as opposed to the novel that he estimated took place in the 1930s or 1940s. Meirelles chose to make a contemporary film so audiences could relate to the characters. The director also sought a different allegorical approach. He described the novel as "very allegorical, like a fantasy outside of space, outside the world", and he instead took a naturalistic direction in engaging audiences to make the film less "cold".

Don McKellar said about adapting the story, "None of the characters even have names or a history, which is very untraditional for a Hollywood story. The film, like the novel, directly addresses sight and point of view and asks you to see things from a different perspective." McKellar wrote the script so audiences would see the world through the eyes of the protagonist, the doctor's wife. He sought to have them question the humanity of how she observes but does not act in various situations, including a rape scene. The screenwriter consulted the author about why the wife took so long to act. McKellar noted, "He said she became aware of the responsibility that comes with seeing gradually, first to herself, then to her husband, then to her small family, then her ward, and finally to the world where she has to create a new civilization." The screenwriter wrote out the "actions and circumstances" that would allow the wife to find her responsibility. While the completed script was mostly faithful to the novel, McKellar went through several drafts that were not. One such saw him veer away from the novel by creating names and backstories for all the characters. Another significantly changed the chronology. Only after these abortive attempts did McKellar decide to cut the backstories and focus primarily on the doctor and his wife. He attempted to reconnect with what originally drew him to the novel: what he called its "existential simplicity". The novel defines its characters by little more than their present actions; doing the same for the adaptation became "an interesting exercise" for McKellar.

McKellar attended a summer camp for the blind as part of his research. He wanted to observe how blind people interacted in groups. He discovered that excessive expositional dialogue, usually frowned upon by writers, was essential for the groups. McKellar cut one of the last lines in the novel from his screenplay: "I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind. Blind but seeing. Blind people who can see, but do not see." McKellar believed viewers would by that point have already have grasped the symbolism and didn't want the script to seem heavy-handed. He also toned down the visual cues in his screenplay, such as the "brilliant milky whiteness" of blindness described in the novel. McKellar knew he wanted a stylistically-adept director and didn't want to be too prescriptive, preferring only to hint at an approach.

By September 2006, Fernando Meirelles was attached to Blindness, with the script being adapted by Don McKellar. Blindness, budgeted at $25 million as part of a Brazilian and Canadian co-production, was slated to begin filming in summer 2007 in the towns of São Paulo and Guelph. Filming began in early July in São Paulo and Guelph. Filming also took place in Montevideo, Uruguay. São Paulo served as the primary backdrop for Blindness, being a city mostly unfamiliar to U.S. and European audiences. With its relative obscurity, the director sought São Paulo as the film's generic location. Filming continued through autumn of 2007.

Meirelles acknowledged the challenge of making a film that would simulate the experience of blindness to the audience. He explained, "When you do a film, everything is related to point-of-view, to vision. When you have two characters in a dialogue, emotion is expressed by the way people look at each other, through the eyes. Especially in the cut, the edit. You usually cut when someone looks over. Film is all about point-of-view and in this film there is none." Similar to the book, blindness in the film serves as a metaphor for human nature's dark side: "prejudice, selfishness, violence and willful indifference".

With only one character's point-of-view available, Meirelles sought to switch the point-of-views throughout the film, seeing three distinct stylistic sections. The director began with an omniscient vantage point, transited to the intact viewpoint of the Doctor's Wife, and changed again to the Man with the Black Eye Patch, who connects the quarantined to the outside world with stories. The director concluded the switching with the combination of the perspective of the Doctor's Wife and the narrative of the Man with the Black Eye Patch.

Prior to public release, the director screened Blindness to test audiences. Meirelles described the impact of test screenings: "If you know how to use it, how to ask the right questions, it can be really useful." A test screening of Meirelles' first cut in Toronto resulted in ten percent of the audience, nearly 50 people, walking out of the film early. Meirelles ascribed the problem to a scene of sexual violence that took place partway through the film, and the director edited the scene to be much shorter in the final cut. Meirelles explained his goal, "When I shot and edited these scenes, I did it in a very technical way, I worried about how to light it and so on, and I lost the sense of their brutality. Some women were really angry with the film, and I thought, 'Wow, maybe I crossed the line.' I went back not to please the audience but so they would stay involved until the end of the story." The director also found that a New York test screening expressed a uniquely American concern about a victim in the film failing to conduct an act of revenge. Meirelles believed this concern to reflect what Americans have learned to expect in their cinema.

Focus Features acquired the right to handle international sales for Blindness. Pathé acquired U.K. and French rights to distribute the film, and Miramax Films won U.S. distribution rights with its $5 million bid. Blindness premiered as the opening film at the 61st Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2008, where it received a "tepid reception". Straw polls of critics were "unkind" to the film.

Blindness was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2008 as a Special Presentation. The film also opened at the Atlantic Film Festival on September 11, 2008, and had its North American theatrical release on October 3, 2008.

The film has received mixed reviews from critics. As of January 11, 2009, Blindness has 41% positive reviews on the movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with 59 of 143 counted reviews giving it a "fresh" rating, and 84 giving it a "rotten" one. The film has an average rating of 5.2 out of 10.

Screen International's Cannes screen jury which annually polls a panel of international film critics gave the film a 1.3 average out of 4, placing the film on the lower-tier of all the films screened at competition in 2008. Of the film critics from the Screen International Cannes critics jury, Alberto Crespi of the Italian publication L'Unita, Michel Ciment of French film magazine Positif and Dohoon Kim of South Korean film publication Cine21, all gave the film zero points (out of four).

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter described Blindness as "provocative" but "predictable cinema", startling but failing to surprise. Honeycutt criticized the film's two viewpoints: Julianne Moore's character, the only one who can see, is slow to act against atrocities, and the behavior of Danny Glover's character comes off as "slightly pompous". Honeycutt explained, "This philosophical coolness is what most undermines the emotional response to Meirelles' film. His fictional calculations are all so precise and a tone of deadly seriousness swamps the grim action." Justin Chang of Variety described the film: "Blindness emerges onscreen both overdressed and undermotivated, scrupulously hitting the novel's beats yet barely approximating, so to speak, its vision." Chang thought that Julianne Moore gave a strong performance but did not feel that the film captured the impact of Saramago's novel.

Stephen Garrett of Esquire complimented the director's style: "Meirelles the material by using elegant, artful camera compositions, beguiling sound design and deft touches of digital effects to accentuate the authenticity of his cataclysmic landscape." Despite the praise, Garrett believed that Meirelles's talent at portraying real-life injustice in City of God and The Constant Gardener did not suit him for directing the "heightened reality" of Saramago's social commentary.

The film appeared on some critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named it the 5th best film of 2008, and Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle named it the 8th best film of 2008.

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Blindness (novel)

Blindness (Portuguese: Ensaio sobre a cegueira, meaning Essay on Blindness) is a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago. It was published in Portuguese in 1995 and in English in 1997. It is one of his most famous novels, along with The Gospel According to Jesus Christ and Baltasar and Blimunda.

Blindness is the story of an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness afflicting nearly everyone in an unnamed city, and the social breakdown that swiftly follows. The novel follows the misfortunes of a handful of characters who are among the first to be stricken and centers around a doctor and his wife, several of the doctor’s patients, and assorted others, thrown together by chance. This group bands together in a family-like unit to survive by their wits and by the unexplained good fortune that the doctor’s wife has escaped the blindness. The sudden onset and unexplained origin and nature of the blindness cause widespread panic, and the social order rapidly unravels as the government attempts to contain the apparent contagion and keep order via increasingly repressive and inept measures.

The first part of the novel follows the experiences of the central characters in the filthy, overcrowded asylum where they and other blind people have been quarantined. Hygiene, living conditions, and morale degrade horrifically in a very short period, mirroring the society outside.

Anxiety over the availability of food, caused by delivery irregularities, act to undermine solidarity; and lack of organization prevents the internees from fairly distributing food or chores. Soldiers assigned to guard the asylum and look after the well-being of the internees become increasingly antipathetic as one soldier after another becomes infected. The military refuse to allow in basic medicines, so that a simple infection becomes deadly. Fearing a break out, soldiers shoot down a crowd of internees waiting upon food delivery.

Conditions degenerate further, as an armed clique gains control over food deliveries, subjugating their fellow internees and exposing them to rape and deprivation. Faced with starvation, internees do battle and burn down the asylum, only to find that the army has abandoned the asylum, after which the protagonists join the throngs of nearly helpless blind people outside who wander the devastated city and fight one another to survive.

The story then follows the doctor and his wife and their impromptu “family” as they attempt to survive outside, cared for largely by the doctor’s wife, who still sees (though she must hide this fact at first). The breakdown of society is near total. Law and order, social services, government, schools, etc., no longer function. Families have been separated and cannot find each other. People squat in abandoned buildings and scrounge for food; violence, disease, and despair threaten to overwhelm human coping. The doctor and his wife and their new “family” eventually make a permanent home and are establishing a new order to their lives when the blindness lifts from the city en masse just as suddenly and inexplicably as it struck.

There are many hints that the novel is an allegory about spiritual blindness and about humanity's lack of compassion for strangers.

Like most works by Saramago, the novel is written in long sentences, with scant punctuation. Sentences can be half a page long and occasionally longer, and the lack of quotation marks around dialogue means it is not always possible to tell who is speaking.

Also typical of Saramago, rather than names the characters are referred to by descriptive appellations such as "the doctor's wife", "the car thief", or "the girl with the dark glasses". Given the blindness they face, some of these names are sharply ironic ("the boy with the squint"), as is perhaps the fact that the doctor is an eye doctor. The city afflicted by the blindness is itself never named nor the country specified, and there are few definite identifiers of culture, such as present-day technology. This contributes an element of timelessness as well as universality to the novel. The few definite identifiers of culture portrayed may hint that the country is Saramago's homeland of Portugal; the main character is shown eating chouriço, a spicy sausage, and some dialogue uses the familiar 'tu' second-person singular verb form (a distinction which does not exist in English, but does in Portuguese). The lack of proper nouns is a feature in many of Saramago's novels (e.g. All the Names or The Cave).

An English-language film adaptation of the novel was directed by Fernando Meirelles. Filming began in July 2007 and stars Mark Ruffalo as the doctor and Julianne Moore as the doctor's wife. The film served as the opener of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Following the increased notoriety of the novel upon the release of the 2008 film adaptation, the US National Federation of the Blind (NFB) criticized Saramago's work. In a banquet speech at the organization’s annual convention on July 4, 2008, in Dallas, Texas, NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer criticized the novel and its film adaptation as negatively portraying the blind.

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Source : Wikipedia