Film Forum, in New York City, will present the U.S. theatrical premier of Notes on Blindness on November 16 - 29, 2016.
John Hull (1935-2015) was born in Australia, the son of a Methodist minister. He settled down in England and became a professor of religious studies at the University of Birmingham. As a boy, Hull had trouble with his eyes and during his 40s he completely lost his sight. Three years after being declared legally blind, he had an epiphany: "I have been thinking to myself that I am not a blind person, but a sighted person who cannot see."
Hull decides to keep an audio diary focusing on his revised understanding of living in a world without light and his emotional journey through a sea of emotions including fear, anger, insight, and inspiration. Hull celebrates his love of family, his vivid dream life, the dimming of his memories of the past, the warmth of sunlight on his face, the importance of routines, the feelings of energy around and within him, and the final descent into "deep blindness" which comes after five years. In one sequence, he stands at the door of his house and listens to the rain outside; the soundtrack captures the subtle and sensuous differences between rainfall on different surfaces, illustrating how Hull is able to "see" what is around him through hearing.
"I am concerned to understand blindness, to seek its meaning, to retain the fullness of my humanity."
— John Hull
This richly revelatory documentary has been lovingly put together by filmmakers Peter Middleton and James Spinney. Although all of the explorations of blindness undertaken by Hull are spiritual in nature and intent, he is eventually knocked-over by a mystical experience of grace that shakes his universe and gives him plenty of wisdom to pursue in his hours of solitude.
In 1990 Hull's audio diaries were published under the title Touching the Rock. In 2012, his writing on blindness was acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
"To gain our full humanity, blind people and sighted people need each other."
— John Hull