be part of the VIP Reunion Party
during SUNdance 2024 (JAN 21) in PARK CITY, Utah
Ben Fox, “Sundance Kid: The Blind Filmmaker”, is a blind man on a mission… for Film, Family and Faith, visiting Sundance again for the first time in 22 years, this time, for a reunion with fellow members of the Sundance Academy’s innagual class of “GenY” future filmmakers, class of 2001.
- Keep reading below -
Little do they know, he had eye surgeries shortly after walking the red carpet at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival (now back to filmmaking as the founder of the Blind CAN Film Festival).
This film explores vision found through faith and with chosen family, while going blind slowly and learning to tell about it.
Join Ben as he visits his home and family (ALSO a sit down with his Dad) in Utah for the first time since before learning to use a white cane, and before Mormons where allowed to smoke pot for medical purposes LOL! Sundance 2024, see you at the Movies, White Canes, Cameras, ACTION!
- Keep Reading OFFICIAL PRESS below:
A spectacular vision: the blindCan Film Festival
Cameron Glymph Staff Writer
When presented with the notion that a blind person can make a film, many people would think it is impossible. Ben Fox, the founder of the blindCAN Film Festival, is showing the Tallahassee Community and the world that blindness isn’t a hindrance to living a full life or using the art of cinema to tell stories.
Fox himself has Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a form of gradual sight loss that occurs when the retina of the eye is damaged. Before his diagnosis, at just 18 years old, he was accepted to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. After leaving his passion for filmmaking for years, he founded blindCAN to help other visually impaired people share their stories through film.
“There’s a lot of time that I spent running that I could have spent exploring the possibilities of filmmaking while blind,” said Fox. With determination and a bountiful community of visually impaired people, Fox is mentoring aspiring creatives regardless of their disabilities. blindCAN lets the world know that anyone, including the blind, can be a filmmaker.
The winner of the short, scripted film category of the festival was Micheal Tubiak, who produced the film “When Wet Floor Signs Attack.” Tubiak, who also has RP, hosts a YouTube channel with his friend Steve, where the film was released. The film vilifies “wet floor” signs, which are hard for visually impaired people to navigate around. Tubiak asked his followers on YouTube, many of whom also have visual impairments, to “assemble” as the “RP heroes” (a play on the avengers) and send in videos of themselves defeating wet floor signs. At the end of the film, they were victorious, and not a single sign was left standing in the way of a visually impaired person.
All the way from Connecticut, Tubiak came to the film festival to show his support for other filmmakers. Tubiak’s son helped him make “When Wet Floor Signs Attack,” and as a blind parent, Tubiak is grateful to be raising a family. Tubiak says that “if [he’s] struggling and needs help with something, [his son] is always there” to help him. A large part of the festival was celebrating the ways that blind people show their abilities simply by doing the things that society would deem impossible to do while blind. Many people would view blindness as a major setback to starting a family, Tubiak shows that it’s possible to do so and, as his son says, be the “cooler parent.”
The highlighted feature film of the evening was “A Shot in the Dark,” which was directed by Chris Suchorsky. The film follows the story of Anthony Ferraro, who, in high school, had aspirations of being the first blind wrestling champion of New Jersey. The film was completely independent and relied on crowd funding to complete — it raised a whopping $87,000.
Ferraro was born completely blind but states that his family “never treated him differently.” Throughout the film, Ferraro recounts his experiences of adversity in sports: he was continually told that he had an “unfair advantage” as a blind athlete or accused of faking his disability. By the end of his career as a high school wrestler, Ferraro had 122 wins, and was one of the most decorated athletes at his school. As Ferarro’s older brother Oliver passed away in 2015, the film has a special place in his heart. “It’s a love story for my brother and it keeps him alive,” said Ferraro. To this day, the film inspires him to “[go] out and do what [he] loves, not making any excuses.” Today, besides through filmmaking, Ferraro shares his story and experiences as a motivational speaker.
Although the festival primarily focused on films made by the blind, it also featured films by people with other disabilities – one of which was “Ahmad,” directed by Kortisaan “Dario” Vandier, a disabled veteran and Emmy award winner. Vandier wanted to share the story of his younger cousin, Ahmad, who died tragically at just 6 years old. Vandier says his inspiration for the film was his need “to give Ahmad a story and a voice,” and show “how people…navigate through trauma, forgiveness, and work to reclaim what is lost.” Gut wrenching and beautifully made, the film was created using the help of the community in Merritt Island, FL, which is where Ahmad grew up. For Vandier, the purpose of making films is to share “positive, purposeful messages and raise social awareness.”
The festival lasted all day long and would not have been possible if not for the efforts of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity at FSU. Synnove Mikkelsen, Emily Fitzgerald and Jacob Glance, who are members of the fraternity, were on their feet the entire day assisting Fox with errands, moving around instrument equipment and ensuring everything was running smoothly. Beyond just helping operate the festival, Fitzgerald helped Fox with promotion by creating an Instagram account for the organization. For the members of Alpha Phi Omega, the service work was an incredibly refreshing experience. “It’s such a nice group of people here, and everyone is super kind because they’re all focused on the same goal," said Mikkelsen. The effort put into the blindCAN festival shows the importance of uplifting stories different from our own, and the power of community efforts in raising awareness for social change.
Fox, who is gradually losing his vision, still sometimes struggles to cope with the possibility of being completely blind one day. Towards the end of the festival, he stated that the films being shown, especially Ferraro’s, have made him “come to peace with his blindness.” In the words of Fox, “film is the next evolution of art.” The blindCAN Film Festival is evidence of this spectacular evolution — the film industry has a bright future ahead of it, and that future includes people of all abilities. All you need is a vision.