I reviewed this film when it was first screened here at the Kino/17 Film Festival last fall but as it’s opening here commercially on Thursday, I thought I’d revisit it.
Saliya Kahawatte is one determined dude! When he was a 15-year-old student in Hamburg, he started noticing that his vision was becoming blurry. The doctors diagnosed him as having an acute retinal detachment so severe that it had impacted his optic nerve. He underwent emergency surgery; however, he was left with just 5 percent of his vision. Everyone told him to drop out of school and go work in a setting for visually impaired people but Saliya wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he went back to school, learning his courses by repeating over and over again what he heard from his teachers, and his mother and sister. (His father, sadly, was unsupportive of his efforts.) Amazingly, Saliya graduated high school and then set out to get a traineeship in the hospitality industry. Unfortunately, once he disclosed to these potential employers that he was legally blind, they didn’t want to accept him into their internship programmes. He had no choice but to withhold the truth of his condition, counting steps, relying on his other senses and repeating simple tasks until he perfected them. He got so good that he was able to fool the illustrious Bayerische Hof Hotel in Munich into hiring him on and, with the help of a few of his fellow trainees and his family, he made it all the through to the end.
Saliya’s journey is chronicled in his 2009 autobiography “Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben” and that story has now been turned into a film of the same name starring Kostja Ullmann (A MOST WANTED MAN). Although the film follows a few rather predictable arcs of life and love, it is an endearing story thanks in no small part to Ullman’s earnest performance. He was able to capture Saliya’s “if you knock me down and I’ll get right back up again” spirit, and it will have you both feeling his pain whenever he falters, and cheering for him whenever he succeeds.
If you’re looking for a feel-good film to watch this week, MY BLIND DATE WITH LIFE is one you shouldn’t miss!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, April 5th at 8:30 am HK time!
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