Issue date: 28 January 2004

ISSUE DATE: 28/01/04
Touching the Dark by Alex Scharffenorth

Touching the Dark by Alex Scharffenorth, who is currently studying for an MA in Film and Video at the University of the West of England, has been announced winner of the Factual category in the Royal Television Society Student Television Awards for 2003 for the Wales and West of England Region. As one of the regional winners, the film now goes forward to the National Awards in June 2004.

Touching the Dark is a 15-minute video documentary which uses an experimental approach to challenge the stereotypes of blindness by the sighted majority from the perspective of two blind university students, Anela and Adrian. It was made by Alexandra Scharffenorth whilst she was studying towards a BA in Cultural and Media Studies and English at UWE.

Alex said, “I’m delighted to get this far in the National Awards because I think there is an important message contained in the film about how sighted people perceive blindness.

“The film is a documentary about blindness looking at some of the major stereotypes such as ‘blindness as tragedy’, ‘the blind seer’, and ‘the blind as other’. Resisting conventional formats, I, for example, decided that I would not show eyes or faces of the student friends, Anela and Adrian featured in the film.

“I thought of using the camera as a hand, or the foot, discovering their way bit by bit. My idea was to go from abstract to concrete. The sighted viewer has to be patient, watch and wait and connect consciously what he is normally used to know instantaneously when looking at an object.

“Adrian and Anela provided essential help and criticism without which this film would not have been possible. I have tried to show how limiting and discriminating stereotypes are by likening them to bricks in a wall: the more there are the higher and bigger the wall, the less the possibility of breaking through it. As the film unfolds bricks are removed, as the viewer is able to question and eliminate some of his preconceptions about blindness.

“I have also tried to ensure that the film works on an audio level so that it can be enjoyed by sighted and blind people equally.”

Professor Michael Chanan, Professor of Cultural and Media Studies, in the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at UWE, said, “This is a great award for Alex, and for the way we approach documentary in the School. It’s a very original film – Alex wanted to critique the stereotypes we have of blindness, but she also wanted to get away from the clichés of the conventional documentary, and she succeeded in both. We all wish Alex the very best of luck in the National Awards.”

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