Notes on Blindness: Snow

Filmmaker Peter Middleton Explores the Senses Through a Transformative Blizzard

Traffic comes to a slow halt, iridescent headlights are muted and residential city blocks go quiet as a blizzard obscures the urban landscape in Snow, an immersive short by Peter Middleton. Narrated by John Hull, an Australian-born academic who has written extensively about his late-in-life loss of sight, the film captures the effect of the weather on his daily life, transforming his surroundings beyond tactile recognition. “John’s diaries contain so much rich and evocative imagery, articulated in a language that is wonderfully cinematic,” explains Middleton of the journal entries that inspired his visual retelling of Hull’s story, in which blindness is described as “the borderland between dream and memory.” This view partly informed the director’s decision to shoot on 8mm film, “to capture something of the ethereal experience of blindness, and create a world that traverses the line between the familiar and the unreal.” Filmed in the United Kingdom during the infamous winter of December 2010 and again in February 2012, Snow was the starting point for Middleton’s upcoming feature about Hull, Into Darkness. Based on more than 16 hours of audio recordings kept by Hull when he first began to lose his sight, the documentary, co-directed by James Spinney, was also the source of Rainfall, which premiered on NOWNESS during this October’s wetter, fall weather. 

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Return of the Sun

    Filmmakers Glen Milner and Ben Hilton Witness the Greenland's First Dawn of the Year

    Set against the expansively beautiful and iridescent landscape of Northern Greenland, Glen Milner and Ben Hilton's subtle and touching short visits the annual sun-welcoming ritual of the country’s Inuit population, which celebrates the dawn after more than 40 days of complete winter darkness. Following the daily routine of an Inuit ice fisherman and his son, Return of the Sun examines the affects of the changing climate on their livelihood and community, and pays tribute to the locals’ innate adaptability. “While we were there our fisherman lost hundreds of pounds of fish due to ice breaking away and lines being lost, rare for this time of year,” explains Milner. “The fishermen were already thinking of new ways to hunt and the Inuit attitude in such a harsh environment proved inspiring.” Although the pair had previously worked together on diverse projects including Rwandan genocide prisoners and a short on experimental rock band Rolo Tomassi, filming in Greenland’s harsh environment offered unique new challenges. “Filming in such low temperatures with high winds is grueling. Keeping the camera out of the battering snow, keeping it warm and getting sound away from the winds was really tough, and it's so dark,” says Hilton. “But emotionally, you see nature at its most inspiring and its most intense.”  

    STATS FROM ON SET

    Location
    Ilulissat, Greenland. 

    Longitude and Latitude
    69° 13 min N; 51° 6 min W.

    Average daily temperature
    -17°C.

    Average daily wind speed
    5.6–11 km/h (Force 2, Beaufort Scale).

    Affect of changing climate
    Ice depleting by up to 15 meters (49 feet) per year in Ilulissat, meaning 20 billion tons of iceberg break off and pass out of the Ilulissat fjord annually.

    Hours of darkness per day while filming 
    21.

    Days of total darkness per year 
    43.

    Average sunlight per year 
    On balance, 1,878 sunshine hours––approximately 5.1 sunlight hours per day.

    Traditional first annual sunrise
    January 13 (13 minutes before 13:00).

    Sunrise in 2011
    January 11.

    Number of inhabitants 
    4,000.

    Transport
    1 x 4x4, 6 x planes, 1 x small fishing boat, dog sleds.

    Number of dogs per sled 
    30.

    Camera 
    Sony F3 with Zeiss ZF lenses.

    Length of shoot 
    Two days traveling to location, six days filming, two days traveling back.

    Clothes worn while filming 
    North Face everything.

    Average number of layers of clothing 
    Six.

    Skin care 
    Arctic skincare packs and lots of ChapStick.

    Food during filming
    Equal mix of fine dining and Pot Noodle.

    Safety equipment 
    Not enough.

    (Read More)
  • MOST SHARED IN GASTRONOMY
    MOST SHARED IN GASTRONOMY

    Demon Days: Alvin Leung

    The Michelin-Starred Bo Innovation Chef Takes Us to the “X-treme” Edge of Cooking

    Amid tentacles and open flames, the self-professed “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung reveals a wicked palate and a penchant for carnal creations in this short by filmmaker Ryan Hopkinson. Born in London and raised in Toronto, Leung rose to prominence in Hong Kong, becoming known for what he calls “X-treme Chinese” cuisine, a far-out technique that harnesses the futuristic appeal of molecular gastronomy alongside the wide reach of fusion. The incendiary results both morph traditional Chinese recipes into kinky culinary experiences, and tackle off-the-plate issues: the self-taught chef’s signature dish, Sex on the Beach, serves up an edible “condom” on a shitake beach, created to raise funds and awareness for AIDS charity. Preparing to launch Bo London, an offshoot of his prominent Hong Kong Bo Innovation, set to open in Mayfair this autumn, Leung spoke to NOWNESS about the science—and the magic—behind his delectable madness.

    With all the different genres of cooking out there today, why choose “X-treme Cuisine”? 
    I want to give people something more than tags like fusion, molecular or modern contemporary. I'm known for a couple of shocking dishes: Bo Bo for instance was wagyu beef with black truffle and foie gras, but served in a can. But X-treme isn’t just about being shocking; it’s exciting because it can take you to your limits and give people a new, surprising experience. 

    What inspires your X-treme recipes?
    I try to incorporate some element of familiarity when I cook; I make my food multi-sensory because when you eat it combines several senses: sight, smell, temperature and texture. In the East, texture and temperature are very important, and in the West taste and the visual take priority. Using all your senses creates a memory—you're associating and comparing.

    How might you adapt a classic, familiar dish?
    Shalong Boa (little dragon), or Xiao Long Bao in Mandarin, is a dish of tiny pork bouillon dumplings that explode in your mouth. Traditionally they would wrap a thick pastry around chopped up pork fat and seasoning and steam it so that when you bite into it you taste the liquid. I map the perfect Xiao Long Boa using the dish’s original flavors, with the addition of spherification (shaping liquid into spheres), so it looks like an egg yolk—it tastes the same as the original dish, even though that’s not what it appears to be. 
    (Read More)

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