Bringing cinema to the visually impaired

Bringing cinema to the visually impaired
For the first time in Egypt, special screenings of cinema classics with audio description are held for the visually impaired, with hopes of bringing the venture to a wider audience.
3 min read
05 Jul, 2015
Nadia Lotfy, who stars in the film, will attend the screening [al-Araby al-Jadeed]
Following a successful limited screening of a feature film with audio description for the blind and visually impaired for the first time in Egypt, Zawya and Masreya Media are joining forces once again to bring the special screening to a wider audience next week.

The first screening was held on 11 June in Zawya, a downtown Cairo art-house cinema launched last year by leading film production and distribution company Misr International Films (MIF).

Masreya Media, one of Egypt's busiest subtitling and dubbing studios, provided the audio description and vivid narration accompanying the film screening.

Aysha Selim, Masreya Media dubbing director, introduced the film and welcomed the audience, explaining that the venture was part of a series of efforts to raise awareness and ensure that the blind and visually impaired are integrated into society.

MIF co-manager and producer Marianne Khoury told al-Araby al-Jadeed that among the 25 visually impaired attendees of the first screening was Ahmed Harara, who had lost both of his eyes to sniper bullets, one during the clashes on 28 January 2011, which came to be known as Egypt's Day of Anger, and the other during the clashes of Mohamed Mahmoud street in November the same year.

Among the attendees was Ahmed Harara, who had lost both of his eyes to sniper bullets.

According to Khoury, Egyptian actress Nadia Lotfy will attend the second screening of the 1963 historical film directed by MIF founder and world-renowned Egyptian director Youssef Chahine.

Lotfy, who stars in the film, requested the postponement of the screening, which was originally scheduled to be held on 2 July, due to the current circumstances in the country. The film will now be screened on 9 July in Galaxy cinema in Cairo.

"When I 'watched' it without audio description before, I used to ignore the silent moments, as if they didn't exist, and I applied my own imagination to make sense of the sound effect", one attendee wrote in feedback, which al-Araby al-Jadeed obtained a copy of from Aysha Selim.

"Now with audio description, it's totally different. It clarified a lot of things that I used to imagine in a wrong way, e.g. places, facial expressions, hints, body language and the description of characters".

On future plans to hold more similar screenings, Selim told al-Araby al-Jadeed that it depended on two factors.

"First, we need to see how popular the screenings will be. After all, we are catering to a specific group of people. So if they are not interested, or if it is too difficult for them to make it to the screenings due to difficulties in mobility, it will not work", she said.

"Second, these screenings are not sustainable on the long-run without proper support and funding. Right now, we are carrying it out at our own expenses".

Although audio description is already prevalent in cinema, theatre, and education around the world, it remained a completely foreign concept in Egypt until this year.