Visability Film Festival were really pleased to screen a film that communicates the challenges of living with an ofttimes invisible disability like RP. Below is a brief window into the heads of Souleyman and the film's director, Jaak Gore.
VFF: Animation really helps viewers better understand Souleyman’s visual experiences, how crucial for you as a filmmaker are these moments?
JG: They are definitely important to the film. Hopefully they engage the viewer’s imagination and get them to consider Souleyman’s experience more fully. We weren’t trying to replicate his vision accurately, as images and videos that try to show visual impairment literally, can be misleading. We felt it was more important to give an indirect representation, with the intention that the audience try and imagine what the experience is like.
S: The animations provide an extra source of information about RP and while not attempting an accurate reproduction they do give the viewer another dimension to engage their imagination.
VFF: The film remains very focused, giving an insight into life in the sporting arena, and also mobility issues around London pavements and tube lines. What were the benefits of keeping your documentary so focused and short?
JG: We wanted to make a film that made people think about visual impairment and I hope that by keeping it short and somewhat intense, that it leaves a strong impression. Hopefully it doesn’t let your attention wander off and I think the shorter length makes it more accessible to a wider audience. We are developing another project about visual impairment, a bigger project involving more participants but I imagine that it’s likely to be more challenging to generate an audience.
S: It’s an attention span thing, it says what it needs to say without fillers. Being short it keeps the viewer engaged. You do what you can within the limited scope that you have. You do your best to give a strong impression of the condition in the best possible way that you can. Hopefully the animations and the short length does this in an effective way.
VFF: RP is often an invisible disability. How important for you is it to increase the public’s awareness of a complex condition like RP?
S: Very important because it's a condition that isn’t easily identified. A greater public awareness of conditions like RP would really help those people who experience it. Better understanding and tolerance would really improve the quality of their lives.
JG: It would be great if more people took a little bit of time to think about how conditions like RP can affect someone’s life. I think the important thing is for us all to develop a curious/questioning attitude, rather than assuming we understand another persons experience, or worse not caring at all.
VFF: Thinking about your experiences of London travel, how accessible are London’s public transport routes and networks for visually impaired people, and are there any improvements you think we ought to already be experiencing?
S: London’s transport system catering for VI, in my opinion is the best in the world. Integrated services such as underground assistance, talking buses and tactile resources are already wide spread. What I would like to see improved is education about what is available. I have some VI friends who are unaware of some of the services and infrastructure in place that would help them. What we need is more education about what is already there.
JG: I worked in London with visually impaired children as a mobility teacher for nearly ten years. I think a big improvement would come from the people who design and build public environments and buildings having a better understanding of visually impaired people’s experiences. They may know the requirements but do they really understand the experience? I was working with a young woman at Hammersmith tube station once, practicing getting on and off trains. We were approached by two TFL engineers who asked us what we were doing. We explained how my student, who has no vision, used the tactile paving to navigate and position herself. They had no idea how it was used only that they had to put it there and the specifications it had to meet. Yet they were responsible for the refit of the station. We would build better, more suitable environments if designers and engineers had a better understanding of the different experiences people have of visual impairment. However like Souleyman pointed out, London and TFL are pretty good, but that is not the case around the whole country.