Review: Do You Dream In Color? (2017)

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Review: Do You Dream In Color? (2017)

By Ellisha Izumi von Grunewald.

Do You Dream in Color? is a documentary following four blind high-school students and the hurdles they face to achieve their individual dreams. The film explores the institutional and social difficulties they must work through; revealing how the system that is meant to work for them actually works against them. Unfortunately, much like the system, the film lets these kids down; portraying their experiences in a well-meaning but artless film.

Do You Dream in Color?

Do You Dream in Color?

The film sets up their dreams and charts their progress: Nick is a musician who wants to play gigs; Conor skateboards and wants to be sponsored to compete; Sarah wants to complete her senior year in Portugal; Carina is a second generation Mexican-American who wants to be the first person in her family to graduate from high-school. The teens vary in their charisma and eloquence but all have an honest presence, both awkward and confident in a very adolescent way. A lot of their difficulties are not in a failure to do something – each are highly competent in their abilities – but in proving to institutions that this is the case. For example, Sarah has an excellent grasp of languages and can navigate confidently in public spaces, but has to fight for the education-abroad program to even consider submitting her application to collaborating countries. It’s moving to see how hard they have to work to experience what are regular milestones to most teenagers – travelling, graduating, prom. The film is sad but not overwhelmingly so, with a light touch and a thick bed of music that is unsubtle but not overtly manipulative.

We observe their lives, see interviews with themselves and their parents, witness the important conversations and significant phone calls. While their Kickstarter shows sincerity behind the filmmaker’s intentions, in their hands the film is awkwardly shot and awkwardly handled. However, they do succeed in highlighting some troubling inequalities. It tells us that almost one third of blind people fail to graduate high school and 70% of blind people are unemployed. Through the experiences of the kids we see these statistics manifest themselves first hand; how hard they have to work to even access to their school’s curriculum.

Do You Dream in Color? is a documentary following four blind high-school students and the hurdles they face to achieve their individual dreams.

Do You Dream in Color? is a documentary following four blind high-school students and the hurdles they face to achieve their individual dreams.

The film occasionally attempts artistry; one instance of provocative editing raises the intersecting issue of class. One student’s middle school was unprepared for his needs two weeks before school started. His mother describes how she took two months leave to work on her son’s case for the access to the curriculum and tutelage he legally requires. She then asks: what about families that can’t afford to take two months off work to fight for their kids? The filmmakers cut to lower-middle class Carina whose mother’s income and vulnerable status as an immigrant means they can’t afford to fight the frustrating long-term administrative battle for her right to access education. The documentary also includes hidden-camera footage of a decisive meeting in Carina’s case. The footage shows us that the system that’s supposed to be there for the blind actually serves to reduce the work the privileged have to put in.

With these techniques the film resembles better documentaries but fails to present their startling revelations in a truly compelling way. An occasionally inspirational, often boring film on a topic that needs more attention. Each of the high-schoolers offer expressive insight to their perspective as a blind person. But I wish they had a better film to better call attention and stir empathy to their plight.

Do You Dream in Color? is released on VOD on February 10th and will be released in select US theatres in 2017.

Directed by Abigail Fuller and Sarah Ivy.

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