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Volunteers help the blind "watch" movies

Updated:2018-06-01 12:32:22   China.org.cn

Movie theaters can be frustrating for the visually impaired, but a library in southwest China is helping create great film experiences for the blind.

Zhang Mei, 69, who was born with congenital vision disorder, visits a theater in the Yunnan Provincial Library to "watch" the latest box office hits every month.

On Monday, guided by a volunteer, she joined hundreds of visually impaired movie-goers in the 200-square-meter room to watch "Coming Home," a 2014 Chinese historical drama film directed by Zhang Yimou.

"I am a super movie-fan and have watched many great movies," Zhang said.

When the audiences settled, volunteer Bai Jing, a sophomore from Yunnan Police Officer Academy, started "telling films" to the audience in front of the screen, holding a microphone.

She described the scenes, actions or emotions of the actors to help the audience better understand the movie.

"Blind movie-goers cannot get clued in on what sighted folks take for granted. I narrate the scenes when actors do not speak," said Bai, who knows which parts of a plot to emphasize and how to keep the audience engaged.

"Telling films" is not an easy job. Volunteers spent days choosing films, writing narrations and retelling stories.

Bai said she often watches a film more than five times and does rehearsals to better present it.

"When they are watching, I closely notice their reaction. I need to recount the plot when the audience gossips or shows doubt," Bai said.

Bai joined the theater in January. "I remembered when I played 'hide and seek' with my eyes covered, I could not even walk a straight line," she said. "I know how hard life can be when losing sight."

"When I see visually impaired people laugh or cry because of film stories, I feel very emotional," Bai said.

Wang Yifan, 55, often visits the theater. She lost her sight the year she graduated from university.

"I thought I was done with my life. It was full of endless fear and darkness," Wang said. "I never thought I could watch movies again."

But when Wang came to the theater more than a decade ago, the magical power of the movies changed her.

"A movie told a story about how a disabled person overcame difficulties and learned to run, and that really inspired me," Wang said. "When I closed my eyes, I could see what I wanted to see in the movies."

Zhang has had a difficult life, too. After her husband passed away, she worked as a masseuse to raise her daughter.

"I remembered a scene that all actors were silent. It was the most touching part of the movie," Zhang said. "The volunteer's narration helped us feel the emotion behind the silence."

"Watching a movie gives me the opportunity to experience a different and colorful life," Zhang said.

There are 70,000 visually impaired people in Kunming. More than 50,000 of them have enjoyed the service since it was launched in 2004, according to the library.

"The colorful life of people in movies can brighten the life of the blind in reality," said librarian Li Chun. "We hope our program can reach more blind people." 

Editor: John Li

Keywords:   volunteers