Overview: Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky (HBO’s THE FINAL INCH), this documentary follows Manisara and Durga, an aging couple from the remote Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, as they embark on a transformative odyssey to regain the sight they lost over the years by undergoing a life-changing procedure.
In remote Nepal, many hillside farmers’ eyes slowly turn milky white as they lose their eyesight from exposure to a lifetime of harsh sun. A team of resourceful Nepali eye specialists combing the area finds Manisara and Durga, who have been married 50 years, and urges them to come to a distant city for a chance to see again. But Manisara is skeptical. Only when her youngest granddaughter plops onto her lap does she decide to move forward.
Filmed over the course of three days and set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Himalayan Mountains, Open Your Eyes follows their extraordinary journey to see again, as Manisara and Durga are carried and guided through narrow paths and down winding roads, all the while facing the great unknown with courage, grace and hope.
Expectations: As I will explain in more detail below this is not a subject that hasn’t been heard of before. Doctors have been going into poverty stricken areas and third world countries to aid the ailing. What will make this story different is attaching a name and a personality to the story and making for a far more personal experience. That type of approach will make this a story about hope, and a new life and not just about medical advancements.
Gut Reaction: Again, this type of story is not new, In fact, VICE just carried a piece in Season Four that covered this life changing procedure. Correspondent Isobel Yeung filed a report about one such clinic replacing cataracts with new lens that had hundreds of patients getting the procedure done. She was quite moved by how cheap and simple it is and the elation that awaits those who receive it.
Now with OPEN YOUE EYES we take this story one step further. We meet an elderly couple in Durga and Manisara and with their consent to be filmed by Brodsky and treated by the clinic wesee, as if first-hand, how a $2.00 implant can enrich a life a thousand fold. It started with aid workers coming to the villages in Nepal, some way up there, to test people for eligibility. Both Durga and his wife met the criteria. She claimed she has seen well for fifteen years; she has never laid eyes on her granddaughter. Such a surgery would mean so much to them and they agree to go down the mountainside for treatment.
Family escorts the couple down to the city where we see the process of testing, diagnosing and finally surgery. Manisara talks most all the way through the journey and the process while Durga remains more stoic. Two great moments that show that humanity, no matter what culture they hail from, is all the same takes place when the bandages are removed and a day later when the couple lays their eyes on home and family; in a word, priceless.
In Conclusion: If this 35 minute documentary had not offered the personal story of this couple then this would have just been another news report on the topic. Instead we are given a glimpse of lives far removed from ours geographically, but with the same ailments, same hopes and same dreams as ours. The biggest difference is that they would never been able to get the treatment they needed without the clinics popping up all over the world giving new sight and no hope to all people.
It is a nice feeling knowing they are doing good work and that people like Durga and Manisara are reaping the benefits. And there is nothing better to make it all complete than seeing Granny playing with the child she can now see and listening to Peter Gabriel closing it out with the song “Open Your Eyes.”
Next: On 08.01 we will get the latest documentary from Alexandra Pelosi. It is entitled MEET THE DONORS: DOES MONEY TALK? Ha! What so you think? The review will be late but forthcoming.