Facets Cinémathèque

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January 6–12, 2017

Chicago Premiere

Notes on Blindness

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Film still: Notes on Blindness Film still: Notes on Blindness Film still: Notes on Blindness
Best Documentary
British Independent
Film Awards
Storyscapes Award
Tribeca Film Fest
Critics' Pick "Magnificent... Notes on Blindness avoids the sentimental pitfalls of a documentary this personal"
  —New York Times
"A deeply sensitive interpretation... Notes on Blindness is more than sufficient to prove that sightlessness, however unwelcome, is a richer experience than we may assume
  —Hollywood Reporter
"An achingly poignant and startlingly immediate portrait of a man adapting to life with a disability"
  —Los Angeles Times
4 stars "Thoughtful, illuminating"
  —TimeOut London
"Elegant, evocative and deeply affecting"
  —Screen International
5 stars "Superb... an utterly immersive feature"
  —The Guardian

Filmmakers James Spinney and Peter Middleton set out to accomplish a seemingly impossible task, visually capturing the internal essence of blindness. Their entry point is writer and theologian John Hull (1935–2015) who lost his sight at age 48, and embarked upon an audio diary, recording the physical and emotional transformations he experienced, as well as his brilliant, sophisticated philosophical observations on this life-changing event.

Painstakingly recreating Hull's life during the early 1980s, Notes on Blindness re-imagines both the realities of his deteriorating condition as well as his more ephemeral and abstract feelings about his life, as it slipped into a new, altered state of being. The result is a powerful ode to the beauty of words and the imagination, where surreal landscapes and elegantly detailed reenactments blend into a visceral, surreal, one-of-a-kind viewing experience. Oliver Sacks, the great neurologist, wrote that John Hull's memoir, On Sight and Insight: A Journey into the World of Blindness is "the most extraordinary, precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read."

Intimate and immersive, the film embraces one man's successful struggle to employ his intellectual and sensual resources to navigate this great trauma.

Directed by James Spinney and Peter Middleton, UK/France, 2016, 90 mins.


  • Fri., Jan. 6 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., Jan. 7 at 3, 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., Jan. 8 at 1, 3, 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Jan. 9–12 at 7 & 9 pm
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$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation