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BLINDNESS

Flying Blind
Once Niv Fichman read Don McKellar's suspenseful, illuminating and, stunningly visual screenplay for BLINDNESS, he knew they would need a director with a matching sense of pace, scale and creativity, as well as an intense interest in the spectrum of human nature. This led them full circle back to Fernando Meirelles, who in the intervening years, had become an internationally acclaimed director. He had broken ground for an exciting new era of global cinema with "City of God,” his intoxicating and inventive journey into Brazil's crime-ridden underground, which was filled with visual panache and action yet also scenes of unforgettable poignancy. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards®, including a nomination for Meirelles as Best Director. Meirelles then moved on to Hollywood to direct the heart-pounding screen adaptation of John Le Carré's Africa-set political thriller "The Constant Gardener,” starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, which received another four Oscar® nominations.

His ability to invite audiences into new and perspective-changing worlds with his ambitious sense of style was a major deciding factor. "When I would dream about what would be perfect for BLINDNESS, I'd dream of the kinetic energy and naturalistic performances in ‘City of God,' combined with the elegance and very subtle politics of ‘The Constant Gardener,' so I knew that Meirelles was the right choice,” says Fichman. "We had started with a book from a Nobel Laureate, we had an adaptation from one of the great screenwriters of the world, and now with one of the most innovative directors, we had created a package that gave us incredible strength.”

"Five minutes of talking was all it took to convince Meirelles to take the helm of BLINDNESS,” recalls producer Andrea Barata Ribeiro, "Fernando could have made any type of film, but he and everyone who has worked closely with him knows of his concern with making the world a better place and this story was always important to him.”

Meirelles began with his eyes closed – literally. He spent hours with them tightly sealed, thinking about how the world would feel and sound, what it would really be like from the inside, if you suddenly lost your vision. For further inspiration, he read the book over and over, six or seven times, letting Saramago's multilayered portrait of humanity under siege wash over him.

He understood the story could be interpreted in any number of ways – as a metaphor about the personal and political reactions to recent natural disasters; as an allegory about the perils of the future; as a commentary on choosing not to see what is happening around you; as a meditation on primal instincts; as a probe into the human conscience in all its desperate weaknesses and astonishing strengths – and he wanted the movie to be all these things and yet none of them explicitly.

"This story does not have one truth, and all the different interpretations make sense,” he says. "There are many moral dilemmas and I think the film goes even further in this direction than the book, where things are a bit more black and white. I have added a lot of grey. This is a story that must create a lot of questions, but give no answers. It raises issues about man's evolution, makes us reflect critically, but points in no specific direction. As in the story, each one will have to discover their own road by themselves.”

But when it came to the film's visual style, Meirelles eschewed the grey. He wanted to emphasize the unexpected kind of blindness specified by Saramago, not a lights-out darkness but an impermeable, radiant fog that obscures, but does not blot out, the world. "My first instinct was to take this dark story and make a very bright film, with an almost oppressive brightness," he comments. Thus, even as all sight, civility and societal structure falls away for the characters, th

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