Community Cinema Screens The Eyes of Me in Houston

Posted on February 17, 2010

Last night,Community Cinema hosted a screening of the Independent Lens film The Eyes of Me at HoustonPBS. The film follows four visually impaired teenagers in Texas as they face the usual challenges of adolescence while simultaneously learning to navigate a world designed for the sighted. Filmmaker Keith Maitland attended the screening and gives an overview of what happened and the impact the event below.

With more than 125 audience members in attendance –– many of them blind or visually-impaired –– HoustonPBS hosted a wonderful Community Cinema screening of The Eyes of Me. It's always exciting for me to be able to sit in a crowded theater and share the film with a new audience but there was something very special about this particular screening. Along with producer Patrick Floyd, I was happy to travel to Houston from Austin, Texas, to experience Community Cinema firsthand. Meagan McComic (one of the main characters from the film) and Bill Daugherty, superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), joined Patrick and I on the panel after the film, to share their reflections and perspectives with the Houston community –– many of whom had ties to TTSBVI directly. 

Two of the audience members were alumni of TSBVI –– Michael Garrett, class of '69, and Bernice Klepak, class of '55. It was exciting to hear Michael and Bernice's response to the film, and the contrasts between their days at the school and the stories of Chas, Meagan, Denise, and Isaac represented in the film. Bernice was impressed with how honest and natural today's students were compared to her days when she feels that they were all "pretty straight-laced."

At this screening, as we have done at all of our festival screenings before this, we were able to offer live audio description through the use of wireless receivers and transmitters. This system (provided by a grant from the Austin Film Society) gives blind and visually-impaired audience members the opportunity to hear an additional audio track that offers visual information, and reads onscreen text, so that users can experience the film as fully as any audience member. Use of this technology offers accessibility and also educates sighted audience members about accessibility. 

It's not surprising that most people have never heard of or considered audio description, we didn't know about it before making the film either, but I'm happy to be an advocate for accessible media and accessible websites too! (Our website,, is fully accessible via use of screen reading software, and we offer a fully accessible trailer that is both audio described, and open captioned for the hearing impaired.) What made Community Cinema such a great screening event was that the audience was so active and engaged. The Q&A following the film was a mixture of questions and comments about the film, the specific characters and stories, as well as how themes within the film affected the local community. It was exactly what we've hoped Community Cinema would be –– it was wonderful. Thanks so much HoustonPBS, Independent Lens, ITVS, and all the great volunteers that are making these events possible! 

-Keith Maitland Filmmaker of The Eyes of Me


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