You know how sometimes you close your eyes and test your sense memory and other senses? Now, imagine doing that on “the rooftop of the world,” Mount Everest.
You Don’t Need Sight to Have Vision
PG for thematic elements and mild language
Writer Samuel Johnson once said, “Few things are impossible to diligence and skill.” In Blindsight, with the skill of Golden, Colorado’s blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer and his team, six Tibetan teenagers from Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg’s “Braille without Borders” trek to the top of the world.
The film opens with a black screen and voiceover to approximate what Weihenmayer might feel on a climb. It’s the only cinematographic hypothetical. Director Lucy Walker wisely avoided maladroit stabs at emulating blindness.
Sonam Bhumtso (whose name means “100,000 Beautiful Lakes”), Gyenshen (“Victory”), Dachung (“Little Moon”), Kyila (“Happy”), Tenzin (“Keeper of the Buddha’s Teaching”) and Tashi Pasang (“Lucky”), despite their circumstances, all have certain universal dreams and ambitions. They have living skills and an education, but what they do not have before the climb is an experience to galvanize their belief in their own relevance and abilities. They are not confident about the future. At least, not at the beginning of the film.
Resilience and Self Worth
This is where Weihenmayer comes in. “I wasn’t afraid to go blind, I was afraid of becoming obsolete,” he says. Weihenmayer went blind at age 12 and ultimately scaled Mount Kosciusko in Australia, the last of Seven Summits, in 2002. In doing so he joined an elite group of sighted mountaineers. He wanted to share that sense of transcendence of the sport with others. Tenberken, who also went blind at age 12 wanted her students to experience a larger world.
As a sportsman and a westerner, Weihenmayer had to reconcile his innate desire to get to the top of the mountain with Tenberken, who as an educator and a caregiver was primarily concerned with what would be best for the kids. Ultimately, the group forged solidarity and the students’ three-week hike culminates in ascending to the Ice Palace just below Lhakpa Ri (~22,000 ft.)
Blindsight is an uplifting testament to the resilience of the human spirit. It rigorously documents students’ transformations and the realization of their value, relevance and ability to contribute to the world at large.
If you haven’t experienced that sensation recently, then go experience this movie.