Onscreen and behind the scenes, “In My Eyes” is the product of struggle. Getting the indie-produced, Chinese-made documentary about into the main Golden Goblet competition is therefore a significant triumph.
The film is the first full-length effort by director Han Yi, who spent six years tracking Gao Shengkan as he travelled the world. Blind since age 8, Gao is described as “stubborn, impetuous and intrepid.” Han made contact with Gao, who works as a masseur, after seeing him featured in a TV newscast.
After being abused by parents who regarded him as a burden, Gao tries to put his handicap behind him. Instead he struggles with a battle for personal fulfilment balanced against traditional Chinese societal demands that he take responsibility for the well-being of his entire family.
The film makers worked with a low-to-no budget, with pauses for fundraising extending the production period far beyond what they anticipated. Many of the staff are on deferred payments. Nevertheless, “In My Eyes” boasts solid credentials in having the U.K.’s Malcolm Clarke share the production credits with Han. (A two-time Oscar-winner for short films, Clarke’s own “Better Angels” Chinese-American documentary is set for release later this year through Global Road Entertainment.)
In keeping with the film’s low-cost ethos, “In My Eyes” has been picked up for international sales by Cinemarket, one of several new online marketplaces to emerge in recent months. Using blockchain technology, the platform houses materials, video and documents including contracts in a transparent fashion. The decision was made by Artefact, a Shanghai-based company that advises on marketing and festival strategy.
“We were open to trying something new and we believed in the platform’s values of transparency and trust,” Artefact executive Zheng Quan told Variety.
The company organized a private screening last week ahead of the official premiere in Shanghai this week. Next week it will be given another special screening, intended especially for Shanghai’s blind community. After that, Zheng says she is aiming to secure slots for “In My Eyes” at the Golden Horse festival in Taiwan and the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.