Looking at Disability in the Eye Through Film
Filmmaker James Robinson traces the beginning of his career with an effort to “push others to overcome their discomfort with our conditions…” In a recent Opinion piece in The New York Times, Robinson recalls: “For the first 24 years of my life, it felt like no one knew how to look into my misguided eyes.” He explains that although most people’s eyes focus together to perceive depth, his are “independent, leaving (his) brain to alternate between them.” This results in words shifting when he reads and “chasing objects that appear to jump within my field of vision.” For Robinson, the medium of film was the answer. He produced a film during his senior year of college to illustrate what he was seeing. The problem, he explains, is not the way he sees, but “’with the way I’m seen.’” The resulting production, “Whale Eyes,” was so named because people are not bothered by the fact that when viewing whales we can only look at one of their eyes at a time. Opinion Video released the film in July 2021. Robinson points out that allowing viewers to observe his face close up, “free from the taboo of staring,” provides other opportunities for the audience to “experience life through (his) eyes while learning how they, too, can adapt.” In this way, film provides a vehicle to forge a relationship between people with and without disabilities. This past year, Robinson created “’Adapt-Ability,’” a series of three short films to help close the social gaps between people with and without disabilities. One of them, about Yvonne Short, who is blind, was covered in this Bulletin in a piece describing her experience entitled “I Am Going Blind. This is What I Want You to See:” Expanding the Definition of Blindness. For the full Opinion Piece, visit The New York Times webpage on how Film Can Help Us Look Disability in the Eye.
Check Out the Film: “Whale Eyes”
To access the film “Whale Eyes,” which originated as a student film project at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS), visit the Duke Trinity College of Arts and Sciences webpage link to How Life Looks Through My Whale Eyes. It’s also available with audio description on You Tube as I Have a Visual Disability, And I Want You To Look Me In the Eye | NYT Opinion. For descriptive video, go to settings – audio track and select “’English descriptive.’”