“Dealt,” a new documentary about blind card mechanic Richard Turner, is using technology to allow members of the blind community to “see” the film. For the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Oct. 27, Arena Cinelounge will provide audio description headsets upon request.
“Dealt” documents Turner’s incredible career perfecting the art of card manipulation and close-up magic. It also deals frankly with his difficulty dealing with the loss of his vision and his determination to not let his disability prevent him from being a top performer. In that spirit, the filmmakers believe the initiative will ensure that the film can be enjoyed by both sighted, low vision, and blind audiences.
It’s certainly in keeping with the message of the film. In an interview last week, the film’s director, Luke Korem, said he wants Turner’s story to resonate with people facing all manner of adversity.
“It’s a film for people who are blind or deaf or anxious or insecure or who are dealing with any kind of issue in their life,” said Korem.
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Michele Spitz will narrate the audio description. The device uses a Bluetooth-enabled headset and contains a prerecorded secondary audio track describing the film’s visual elements. The narration is time-coded so it only plays between dialogue. The “Dealt” filmmakers are making the technology available theatrically and on video-on-demand, where it is possible. Sundance Selects, an IFC label, is distributing the picture.
The “Dealt” team hopes that they can draw attention to the technology, which they liken to closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
“Audio description is a tool that many blind people use to enhance our appreciation of movies, TV shows, live theater, and more,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, in a statement. “While we have always enjoyed movies and TV like everyone else, the verbal description of action, scenery, text, and other visual elements can increase our enjoyment. We appreciate that the makers of ‘Dealt’ are committed to ensuring that everyone can equally and independently enjoy all aspects of this powerful film.”
Turner tested out the technology and said it turned the experience from one-dimensional to immersive and enabled him to embark on “a wonderful visual journey within my mind’s eye.”
Turner suffers from macular dystrophy and began losing his vision as a child. He never wanted to be defined by that, however. For years, he’s wanted to be known as one of the world’s foremost card mechanics, and not have people call attention to his lack of sight. That’s softened of late, and he’s now hopeful that his message of perseverance will resonate with blind audience members. He may have made piece with some demons, but he’s also lost none of his daredevil ways. When I met Turner last summer at the Newport Film Festival, he’d scared the festival’s director nearly to death by leaping from her boat into the water without much of a warning.