Blind Cinema encourages audiences to 'see' movies differently

I am sitting in a cinema, and a film is about to start. I won't be watching it, however, because my eyes are covered by a blindfold.

A tube gently prods me in the head, and I hold it to my ear. I can hear a small child breathing through it on the other end, in the seat behind me.

This is Blind Cinema, created by artist Britt Hatzius in 2015 and presented at festivals all over the world before landing in Queensland as part of Brisbane Festival this year.

While I sit blindfolded, three children aged between 9 and 11 take a turn each whispering what they are seeing into the tube, so I have to rely on their description and my own imagination to "see" the film.

The children have never seen the film before, so as they narrate the film there are pauses as they try to find the words to describe what is happening in front of them.

The first child talks in a whisper almost too quiet to hear, describing different objects she sees. The second adds context to what she is seeing and gives characters feelings, and the third gives me a 10-minute stream-of-consciousness description of everything that appears on the screen.

In a chat with Hatzius after the event, I tell her it required intense concentration to follow the film. She says that is partly why she created the event.

"When you look at images, in a way it's so easy just to take it in unconsciously and not really make an effort ... whereas here I'm really asking the audience to work hard," she tells me.

"So also the ending where the children come on stage and applaud the audience, I tell the kids this is because they've just worked half-an-hour to imagine."

From state schools around Brisbane, the children only get a brief workshop before the screening as Hatzius says she's not so interested in accurate narration, but the emotional response.

"One of the things that I was interested in was how every child has a very different way of seeing, a very different way of choosing how to describe something. Also, whether they give it their own interpretation or not," she says.

Hatzius admits it is weird for a visual artist to create a film no one sees. Despite that, the show has been popular with many of the Brisbane Festival sessions selling out.

"The idea of it is just a bit absurd, and maybe this absurdity is kind of what makes people curious," she says.

"Most of the time it's adults telling kids what to do... whereas this is putting it upside down and getting the adult to be quiet, close their eyes, and be forced to just listen to the kid for half-an-hour. That is maybe also an attraction - there's something curious about that."

Because as well as trying to understand the film, Hatzius says the event is also meant to make the audiences think about the children involved.

"It's not necessarily about picturing something in your mind but seeing these different perspectives, and by changing (the children around) you slowly start thinking about the kid and about their personality," she says.

"A lot of them are nervous beforehand because they are not quite sure how they will respond to it ... but I think they really enjoy it."

The story Blind Cinema encourages audiences to 'see' movies differently first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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