Talking Movies: Chinese Cinema for a blind audience

Dozens of blind moviegoers come to the Saturday screenings organized by the Xin Mu Theater, a small group of volunteers who were the first to present films to a blind audience in China.

Zhang Hinsheng lost his sight in his twenties, but since then he has gained a love for cinema in the Talking Film Club, where volunteers tell vivid stories to blind and visually impaired viewers.

"After I first listened to the film in 2014, it seemed to me that a new world had opened up for me. I felt that I could understand the film, despite my blindness. Clear images appeared before my mind's eye ", – he said.

Their method is surprisingly low-tech. The narrator describes what is happening on the screen, including facial expressions, unspoken gestures, the setting and costumes. They convey visual cues that would otherwise be missed, such as a sudden change of scenery.

Xin Mu is now partnering with larger cinemas for their screenings. Over the past 15 years, the group has shown almost a thousand films.

There are more than 17 million visually impaired people in China. According to the Chinese Association of the Blind, eight million of them are completely blind.