John Hull, a professor of religious education at Birmingham University, went blind in 1983. He spent much of that decade compiling detailed thoughts on the experience of sight loss – a condition he grieved at first, before discovering a philosophical value in his experience.
He created a vast audio-cassette journal that mapped out the strange new world confronting him. Those same recordings, a treasure trove of frontier thought on the subject of blindness, formed the basis for his book “ Touching the Rock” and subsequently, “Notes on Blindness”, a fascinating BAFTA-nominated and award winning documentary film.
Beautifully and imaginatively shot (with the notable use of actors Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby playing John Hull and Hull’s wife Marilyn lip-synching the audio taped dialogue), the film sensitively patches together these reminiscences of his descent into blindness, and the strength of character and determination to rise above this devastating setback.
Over the course of the film, John’s growing determination to grasp the specifics of his disability, led him to view his condition as an opportunity. In doing so, John successfully communicates what the loss of sight entails and leaves the audience able to appreciate and ponder more fully what seeing means.
During the film, you can see many of the daily challenges John faced, most notably the lack of confidence he felt when moving around. He had to relearn the skill of mobility as a blind person, which is no easy task, even with the support of friends and family. A superb accompanying VR experience helps to give an insight, detailing some of John’s key observations.
In 2012 John Hull’s learnings on blindness were acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal National Institute for the Blind. The final quote in the film is one that resonates with us at Conspexit.
“To gain our full humanity, blind people and sighted people need each other”
JOHN M. HULL 1935-2015
Here’s a trailer for the film,
..and the film http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04s8tgr/storyville-notes-on-blindness-heightened-soundtrack (available in the UK only)