Originally published on The Dominion Post By Bess Manson
Filipino documentary maker Norman Zafra was so astounded by the independence of blind people in New Zealand, thanks to their seeing eye dogs, he made a documentary to encourage the practice back home.
A Friend in Sight follows Wellingtonian Julia Mosen – who has been blind since birth – independently and safely carry out ordinary tasks with the help of her dog, Kerry. The documentary captures the special relationship between the two, following them as they travel and negotiate the public spaces of the city.
“I’m fascinated with the idea that animals could be trained to help the blind or partially sighted. I think there is a hidden connection between a blind person and a guide dog that is particularly interesting to document,” says the Massey University student.
The practice of using service animals is not visible among communities in his home country, says Zafra, who comes from the northern Bulacan province in the Philippines.
“I would admit that it is difficult to apply this practice back home given, for example, the accessibility issues for persons with disability. But I still hope this story would be a source of inspiration and hopefully a catalyst for social change.
“I totally understand that it’s not an overnight thing; it takes time, money, legislation, political will and a better road system before you can replicate this practice. But the first step in this long process is to raise public awareness and that is what my documentary is aiming to do.”
Kiwis and other audiences may also find this documentary another fascinating account of human-animal bonds and friendship. Making the documentary redefined lessons about trust and loyalty, the 30 year old says.
“It also taught me how to appreciate and treasure things that I can do with all my senses.
“I admire Julia for her courage and high-spirited character. She is such an amazing woman and full of positive vibes. Kerry is the most likeable dog I’ve ever met. There is some form of chemistry between them that is truly worth exploring.”
Zafra is no stranger to making films. Back home he worked for a news organisation as producer and writer of public affairs shows.
“I think producing a documentary is like assembling a puzzle. The goal is to reveal a picture that contains a hidden meaning.”
A Friend in Sight screens at the Roxy Cinema in Miramar tomorrow at 4.15pm and on Saturday at 1.45pm. – The Dominion Post