Good Viewing

Blind protagonists in cinema and television.
Silvia Colombini

In one of the paradoxes that often characterize the world of art, two films with blind characters at their centre are being released on screens large and small. The fact that these stories are told using means that have vision at their core may be something that at first glance arouses wonder. Cinema and television, with their incessant production of entertainment products and their accessibility, can reach a very large audience, certainly more than books which are still preferred by a much smaller number of people. We welcome films and series that can deal with themes that may not be “widely consumed”, niche products that, thanks to the media on which they are conveyed, can reach a wide audience. Among these, in theatres is the film Santa Lucia. Presented out of competition at the 39th edition of the Torino Film Festival at the end of 2021, the film chronicles the return to Naples of Roberto, a blind writer, after forty years of absence following a mysterious exile in Argentina. Played by a great Renato Carpentieri, the protagonist rediscovers places that he now can only recollect from memories and see in his imagination. The point of view of a man who cannot see, except in his imagination, is guiding us in a Naples transformed into a metaphorical place almost as if in darkness it were possible to find a more enlightened vision of the present and the past. First work of director Mario Chiappetta, it is not by chance that the film is entitled Santa Lucia. In addition to being the name of the historic district of Naples from where emigrants departed to America and Argentina, Santa Lucia is also the name of the patron saint of sight. In this story, however, the condition of blindness has more of a symbolic function and is used to represent the condition of a man who, forced to come to terms with his dramatic past, refuses to see it, and is therefore unable to reframe it.


Poster of the movie Santa Lucia

With a totally different spirit, here is instead on RAI 1 the series Blanca. From the very first episode, which aired in November 2021, we are introduced to a protagonist who is strong, courageous, and unique in her diversity. Blanca Ferrando is a young blind policewoman who comes to the Genoa Police Station for her police internship. Having become blind at the age of twelve following a fire in which her older sister was killed by her jealous boyfriend, Blanca is an expert in decoding–analytical listening to audio interceptions–and is driven in her career by the desire to bring justice for her beloved sister. Played by the young and promising actress Maria Chiara Giannetta, Blanca shows us a strong and courageous woman who, despite her disability, is able to go against the wariness and prejudices of some colleagues. In fact, many of them wonder how a blind girl can be useful in a field job such as investigations, but she will prove to be, during the episodes of the series, a valuable presence in solving ongoing investigations. Helped by her guide dog, the faithful American bulldog Linneo, Blanca is a series based on the novels by Patrizia Rinaldi (Edizioni E/O). 

Image from the series Blanca aired on RAI 1

It should be noted that Blanca is the first series in the world to use a special recording technique called holophony, thanks to which almost three-dimensional sound effects are obtained, making it possible to reproduce sounds very similar to how they are perceived by the human auditory system. Maestro Andrea Bocelli also acted as an artistic consultant for this series. Given its success, a new season of this series is already being planned. “Don’t be afraid of the dark,” says Blanca. And she is right. Hers is a statement that has the ring of truth to it. It is enough to follow her adventures, observing the courage, the style, the grit of this contemporary woman, to realize that, after all, she is just like her many peers, sighted or not, who really show every day, especially in these gloomy times, that they are not afraid of the dark. Heads up: coming to the next Berlinale is Dario Argento’s highly anticipated Black Glasses (Occhiali neri). The teacher tells during an eclipse that obscures Rome, the adventures of a young woman who, pursued by a serial killer, loses her sight in a car accident. Guided by a wolf dog and a small Chinese boy who survived the accident, they will have to defend themselves from the killer on their trail. But this is another story to tell soon.



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