Looking at Stars is an intimate glimpse into the lives of extraordinary dancers at the world's only ballet school for the blind.
[NOTE: Looking at the Stars, available until October 11, 2022.]
Alexandre Peralta grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil and is a Student Academy Award-winning filmmaker. His first feature documentary “Looking at the Stars” is an intimate glimpse into the lives of extraordinary dancers at the world's only ballet school for the blind.
By Alexandre Peralta
I read an article about the ballet school for the blind when I was in college, in 2007, studying advertising. I was both fascinated and curious to know more about how they were able to teach such a visual art to someone who is visually impaired. At the time I found out that I lived very close to the school and used to walk by it almost every day but didn't know what it was. The idea just stayed in mind for a long time. 6 years later, when I was in film school, I decided to visit the ballet academy with the idea of making the documentary. The school was even more fascinating than I had imagined, it was a place with no space for pity and full of people working really hard to express themselves and be noticed through art. When I started I had the idea to make character-driven film so I visited the school for some time to know everyone there and decide which stories we would tell. I could never imagine where this journey would take us.
I believe that one of our main challenges was our lack of experience making a feature film. We had to learn a lot along the way. But despite some obstacles, we were able to follow our hearts and intuition, and we were very lucky to have the help of many people throughout the process. One of the things that we had to learn was about accessibility in film. We wanted the visually impaired to be able to experience the film with the use of audio description (AD). Audio description is a separate narration track that describes what is happening visually on screen and explains the story that is not evident in the dialogue. The AD is added when the characters are not talking. While we were editing, we are always thinking about AD and sometimes adding more space between lines so we would have enough time for the description. Our main goal was to have a film that could be equally enjoyed by the characters that we portrayed.
I think that things are getting better in Brazil slowly. I even notice a difference since we started making this documentary. People are talking more about the prejudice and challenges that people with disabilities have to face and it is possible to see them being more included. At the same time they are still looked at by society as some kind of inspiration and an example of how we can overcome our difficulties and not as people, which is something that we tried to do with our film. We wanted to make a film about the characters and the things that most of us have in common and not just their blindness.
I think that documentaries give the viewers a chance to connect and to be in somebody else's shoes while they are watching them on the screen. This way they can experience a different world view and hopefully have some empathy for the people and issues portrayed.
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