Making cinemas and films accessible to the deaf and blind
Reporters: Astina Ng and Lindy Wong
“Actor Nick Cheung Ka-fai embraces a little girl and rushes into the building which is a clinic. Once inside [the clinic], Cheung lowers the girl onto a surgery bed,” the narrator, local DJ and voice artist Jacqueline Pang Ching pauses and pants. “A doctor there… takes out… a… knife. What will happen next?”
Little sweat beads roll down the forehead of a member of the audience in the hall. He freezes and grasps the arms of his chair tightly. Suspense hangs in the air, a sudden yelp from the audience further heightens the intensity.
Pang is providing a vivid narration of a local thriller, The Beast Stalker, for the audience of blind and visually-impaired people and she certainly knows how to captivate them.
First off, she thinks good narrators must be deeply emotionally engaged. Pang also puts a lot of focus on the mood and the atmosphere. Her passion and charisma infects everyone in the room.
Pang has been volunteering as a narrator for movies for the blind for around three years now and describes this work as a win-win arrangement. The visually impaired are entertained by her performance and she gains satisfaction from using her talents.
She recalls how an audience member was in tears when he thanked her for allowing him to enjoy movies again after many years. She was so touched, she also teared up. “What I did is just simply depict what I see, I had never imagined this little task could bring so much happiness to them.”
While Pang’s experience in radio drama makes her a good movie narrator, she says there are differences between a radio drama and movie narration. For instance, a movie narrator has to deal with the unpredictability of shot changes in a film. Pang jokes that narrating the action sequences in the martial arts biopic Ip Man was like commentating on a horse race.
Not all volunteers are professionals from the entertainment industry. Paul Wong Chun-yui, an accountant, is a scriptwriter for descriptive movies for the blind. To prepare for a two-hour movie screening, Wong had to watch a film seven times and spent his Christmas writing. His biggest challenge was striking a balance between writing descriptions and creating atmosphere.