By a Front Row Features Staff Reporter
HOLLYWOOD—“Dealt,” a remarkable new documentary chronicling the colorful life and career of famed “card mechanic” Richard Turner, is embracing new technology that allow its subject, who happens to be blind, and other members of the vision-impaired community to “see” the film in the form of Audio Description (AD) headsets.
Luke Korem’s film, which won the Documentary Audience Award at SXSW earlier this year, is in theaters in Los Angeles, where Korem and the film team have partnered with the Arena Cinelounge to make the special headsets available upon request for every seat in the theater. This is a new initiative by the filmmakers, who have made special accommodations to ensure both sighted and blind theater patrons are able to enjoy this incredibly moving, funny, heartwarming and uplifting documentary.
“Audio Description is the very exciting and rapidly emerging media accessibility tool designed for low vision and blind audiences,” said Michele Spitz, “Dealt’s” AD narrator in a statement. “This evolution makes it possible for inclusive and simultaneously shared experiences of entertainment, whether in a movie theater with a headset provided, or in the privacy of your home via broadcast, streaming or VOD.”
When used by moviegoers, the AD track plays into the headset via bluetooth, with the prerecorded secondary audio track describing the multiple visual elements, time-coded and precisely placed between dialogue. The filmmakers are working toward making this technology available across both theatrical and VOD platforms, supplying the AD track on each DCP given to theaters as well as to iTunes and other On Demand platforms on Sundance Selects.
Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), noted that “audio description is a tool that many blind people use to enhance our appreciation of movies, TV shows, live theater, and more,” adding, “while we have always enjoyed movies and TV like everyone else, the verbal description of action, scenery, text, and other visual elements can increase our enjoyment. We appreciate that the makers of ‘Dealt’ are committed to ensuring that everyone can equally and independently enjoy all aspects of this powerful film.”
Director Korem describes AD as a powerful tool, which every filmmaker and platform should embrace.
“It’s just as essential as Closed Captioning (CC), but oftentimes is neglected because it’s widely unknown,” the Austin, Texas-based filmmaker said. “With AD, we can create a more rich, colorful, and immersive film experience for those who are visually impaired.”
Richard Turner, the 63-year-old subject of the film who has been blind since age 9, was similarly impressed by the technology. “The first time I listened to ‘Dealt’ with audio descriptions it turned a one-dimensional audio experience into a wonderful visual journey within my mind’s eye,” he said. “All my confusion, questions, curiosities were painted crystal clear.”
Charting Richard Turner’s life from his tumultuous childhood to the present, “Dealt” reveals how through determination and force of will, he overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to rise to the top of his profession. It’s both a tantalizing, up-close look at the secretive world of magic and a candid, awe-inspiring portrait of a man who lives beyond his limitations.
The film also has won the support of The National Federation of the Blind.
NFB President Riccobono, said in a statement, “Rick Turner refuses to be defined by his blindness or to let it hold him back. His talent and his determination will inspire and enlighten everyone who sees this movie.”
Korem said he is hopeful that AD technology will become more widely available in theaters, enhancing the experience for blind moviegoers everywhere. “Prior to working on ‘Dealt,
I was unaware (like many people) of audio description for films,” he said. “Having witnessed first-hand the impact it can have I feel it’s absolutely essential. We hope through our efforts with ‘Dealt,’ we can help create a wave of awareness for the wonderful use and power of AD in film.”
“Dealt’ is available on VOD via Sundance Selects. It is in theaters in Los Angeles and New York, and expanding to other cities around the U.S. throughout November. For a complete list of cities where “Dealt” is screening or for further information about the documentary, go to dealtmovie.com.