Revelations abound that seem to spring naturally from the gifted, funny and courageous children’s interviews. Nearly every child emerges as a distinctly colorful personality, as the kids matter-of-factly discuss their physical impairments and proudly demonstrate their artistic achievements, which, in addition to photographic work, include music, writing and one boy’s outrageous gift for mimicry and comedy.
Through the interviews, another, even more poignant point is subtly made about the role of photography in the lives of both the blind and sighted. One youngster explains that he keeps photos he’s taken of his family in a drawer during the day, and on his night stand during the night, “because I’m in school during the day!”
The Czech husband-and-wife directing-writing team of Miroslav Janek and Tonicka Jankova spent nearly 10 years in the U.S. honing their docu talents before returning to their native land after the 1989 fall of communism. Pair demonstrate a sharp sense of movement and the ability to perfectly integrate the kids’ arresting, off-kilter B&W still photography into scenes of their lively daily routines, which include riding bicycles, climbing trees and jogging.
Shot in 16mm and cleanly transferred to 35mm with professional English subtitles, this is a brilliantly conceptualized and immaculately crafted piece of filmmaking that both continues and expands the grand tradition of Eastern Euro documakers. A grasp of the sociological and historical significance of “The Unseen” yields a fuller appreciation of the pic: The disabled were for decades literally hidden away when this part of the world was dominated by the aesthetic and political dictates of communism, whose monitors saw the handicapped as bad news that the working classes would be better off not seeing. Janek and Jankova’s efforts here are dedicated to opening eyes