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BLINDNESS

About The Production
"I don't think we did go blind. I think we always were blind. Blind but seeing. People who can see, but do not see.” -- José Saramago, Blindness

In 1995, the acclaimed author José Saramago published the novel Blindness, an apocalyptic fable about a plague of blindness ravaging first one man, then a city, then the entire globe, with devastating fury and speed. Though the story was about a stunning loss of vision, the book opened the eyes of its readers to a new and revealing view of the world.

The book was celebrated by critics as a classic-in-the-making, a magnificent parable about our disaster-prone times and our metaphoric blindness to our sustaining connections to one another. It became an international bestseller, and also led, along with an accomplished body of equally thought-provoking literature, to Saramago garnering the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature.

As the novel rapidly gained millions of fans around the world, many filmmakers were magnetically drawn to its intricately created world, one that had never been seen on screen before. After all, how does one make a compellingly visual film in which almost no one can see? It called for a grand vision and one filmmaker who had such a vision right from the start was Fernando Meirelles, who, at the time, was an up-and-coming Brazilian filmmaker with a passion for big, intense, all enveloping cinema.

But at the time, Saramago rejected all his suitors, saying he was uninterested in a movie version of Blindness – and Meirelles went on to make another heartfelt movie, his groundbreaking, electrifying, yet lyrical tale of life among the young, fearless gangsters in Brazil's slums, "City of God.”

Meanwhile, multitalented Canadian screenwriter, actor and director Don McKellar was also trying to win the rights to Blindness. McKellar, whose films include the end-of-the-world drama "Last Night,” was grabbed by Saramago's themes as soon as he read the English translation of Blindness, and he knew they weren't going to let him go until he wrote his vision of the adaptation. He approached producer Niv Fichman of Rhombus Media – with whom he had collaborated on both "Last Night” and as a screenwriter on the Oscar®-winning "The Red Violin” -- with the idea of securing the rights. As soon as Fichman read the book, he was equally fervent about it but there remained that one major obstacle in their way: convincing Saramago.

"I always resisted (giving up rights to the Blindness),” Saramago told the New York Times Magazine in 2007, "because it's a violent book about social degradation . . . and I didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands.”

But Fichman and McKellar were not going to give up. All they wanted was a chance to meet with Saramago and present their case and, after months of persistent calling, convincing and cajoling, they finally received word that Saramago would meet with them . . . so long as they were willing to travel to his far-away residence in Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. Fichman's immediate response was, "Excellent. Yes. Where's Lanzarote?”

On the way to visit the octogenarian author, they developed their strategy. They would not discuss the book or their vision for the film, but rather try to impress upon Saramago the creative freedom their team, based in Canada, would bring to the picture. "I think Saramago was afraid that a studio would turn this into a zombie film and lose the fundamental underlying politic of the story,” says Fichman. "So we explained that control would remain in the hands of the filmmakers – and that we wouldn't have to send our rushes to anyone. We explained that we would have the freedom to cast who we want, to shoot how and where we want, and do whatever we felt was right for the film.”

The strategy paid off. "I think Saramago was impressed by our commitment," recalls M

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