Notes on Blindness

In 1983 writer and theologian John Hull lost his sight. To help him make sense of the upheaval in his life he began keeping a diary on audiocassette, a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness. Notes On Blindness is a multi-platform project encompassing a feature length documentary, interactive project and outreach campaign.

Early 1981. John Hull is making a home with his wife Marilyn and expecting their first child. For the past few months he has been marking on his study wall the progress of black disks that have been creeping across his field of vision. By August that year, after a series of unsuccessful operations, just days before the birth of his first son Thomas, he suffers a dramatic collapse of his vision. Within two years he has lost the last traces of sight. He began keeping an audio diary. Between 1983-86 he recorded over sixteen hours of material, a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness. The published diaries were described by author and neurologist Oliver Sacks as ‘the most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read. It is to my mind a masterpiece’. John’s audio recordings are a compelling meditation on memory, consciousness and perception. In a style defined by a searching, often poetic precision, John maps his journey through a world without faces; a world without day and night or the seasons; a shadowland that threatens to engulf not only precious memories of his wife and children but the life they share. Yet across three years John documents the incremental changes that lead him from a position of grief and despair to the discovery of ‘a world beyond sight’. Here the diaries become a life-affirming testament to human adaptation and the rediscovery of family. By 1986, following the birth of his fourth child, John has embraced blindness as ‘a gift’ around which he comes to redefine his life. The creative approach is guided by the power and rich imagery of John’s account. His diaries form the backbone of the film, interwoven with recordings with his wife and children from the period. These original documentary elements are embedded within cinematic interpretations and textured sound design, liberating the scope of the film to explore the interior aspects of John’s experience. Notes On Blindness is multi-platform project: alongside the feature film we are also developing an interactive app and outreach campaign, which use John’s diaries as the departure point for an expansive public discourse on sight loss. The creative team have previously adapted extracts from the same source material into a critically acclaimed short film. The film won Best Short at Hot Docs 2013, also screening at Sundance and SXSW 2014.

Production team