It’s tough to think of a better documentary topic than “the Blind Boxer.” I’m not overly familiar with the sport, but I imagine it has to be something of a novel concept even to the most diehard fans. However, by the last scene in Bashir’s Vision, I began to wonder if the topic is a bit too rich – so much so that it suffers from inherent time constraint of a short film.
Bashir’s Vision opens with a eye-catching rotoscoped segment. The technique is put to even better use in Daniel Roher’s latest than it was in Searching for Sugar Man, the late Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary about the mysterious Sixto Rodriguez. Here, as the almost abstract animation bounces and writhes with life, it transcends mere stylistic merit.
This sequence almost seem like forced perspective. Maybe this loose figuration is what Bashir “sees” as he reconstructs the world using his other senses? In this way, the camera becomes Bashir’s eyes – if only for a moment. It is a powerful transformation.
Bashir’s Vision is a different animal than Kids of the Rocket Siren. Daniel Roher’s last film was about an issue most audiences were reasonably familiar with. Conversely, we have no prior knowledge about “the blind boxer.” Therefore, Roher is forced to introduce the setting, the characters and the narrative from the ground up. This is a lot to accomplish in just 15 minutes, and almost inevitably leads to a short that is heavy on exposition and light on narrative.
The film seems to grow beyond its own capacity. We learn about Bashir’s life – how he became blind, his struggles growing up disabled in Uganda – which humanizes his character. But once I learned who Bashir was as a person, I was hoping to see more of his life as a boxer. How has he fared since entering professional athletics as a blind man? What does his fighting style look like when he takes on opponents who have the full use of their eyes?
Unfortunately, these questions are never answered. In the final moments of the film, Bashir enters the ring to face off against a blindfold-less opponent. But before the fight starts, the shot cuts to black, and all we left with is the sound of fight. Once again, the audience sees the world through Bashir’s unseeing eyes. This clearly echoes Bashir’s words: “I could choose to focus on the fact that my eyes don’t work, or I could step into the ring and see with my ears.”
Yet thematically, this moment does not resonate the way it should. We have only ever seen glimpses of Bashir’s boxing; we don’t know what it’s like to see him fight in a professional arena. By the time the credits rolled, many of my major questions remained unanswered.
Cutting away from the fight also seems oddly antithetical to Bashir’s wishes. He states he wants to show the world what a driven boxer can do, blind or not. By cutting out when he steps into the ring, we don’t get that opportunity. It is the definition of anticlimax.
Perhaps this last moment could have been rotoscoped. This would have offered symmetry with the opening shot, still capturing Bashir’s perspective as he fights his opponent. This also would have offered us visual consistency and the finale we seem to have been promised without compromising Roher’s “blind camera” motif.
Roher’s technical proficiency is obvious. Even as some narrative elements fall flat, Bashir’s Vision benefits from sharp editing and camerawork. The writer/director integrates pertinent archive footage with well-composed shots to create a wholesome, good-humored portrait of his fascinating subject.
The only mar on the presentation is Richard Jay’s soundtrack, which starts with a strong, engaging opening theme but gets a bit too syrupy sweet toward the film’s emotional conclusion. Bashir’s last speech about blindness and moving past one’s limitations is inspirational enough on its own. The slow melancholy piano track only distracts from his words.
Bashir’s Vision gets by on the merits of its premise more than its execution. But between this film and Kids of the Rocket Siren, Roher nevertheless shows promise as a documentarian. He has a penchant for finding captivating stories to share with the world, capturing those intimate moments so often obscured by international news media conglomerates.
This is what documentaries are for, and Roher knows it.
Movie Verdict: Win
The trailer for Bashir’s Vision can be found here: