BluRay/DVD Reviews

ALGORITHMS

By • Mar 15th, 2015 •

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Two opponents challenge one another on an 8×8 grid of 64 squares. All eyes watch as their fingers are outstretched in alien-like fashion, canvassing the board and brushing the 16 pieces while strategies unfold in a showdown to declare victory. All eyes watch – except those of the two blind chess players.

From India, the land where Chaturanga, the original version of what is known as chess was born, a movement led by Charudatta Jadhav from Mumbai is underway. ALGORITHMS follows three young blind chess players over the course of three years at home and to tournaments in places such as Greece. Not concerned with the rules of the game, nor with the workings of the international chess tournament, Ian McDonald’s film allows the young Indians to reveal themselves, their perceptions, and their emotions. In an existence inured in a place of dynamic cultural, political, and religious spectrum, the challenges that each one faces is great.

The first few moments of the film sound a declaration of its victory to evoke strong imagery simply by employing a true documentarian approach to the genre, with honesty in its shooting without adulterating the subject. Shots of pawns and knights moving about as fingers scramble to “see” the board leaves to question just how those without sight manage to play the game and a sense of wonderment when it’s executed with such rapid fire speed.

ALGORITHMS’ beautiful black and white imagery washes away the color, leaving us to view the film in contrasting light and dark as a metaphor for the sighted and the blind. In this world of complete darkness, or just about, their world is black and white. The chess board and its chessmen are black and white, as is the reality of their individual situations: success or not, Chess Master or not.

Not all who appear in the film are totally blind. Some are visually impaired and others are losing sight. Therefore, their body mechanics and eye characteristics all differ, adding another layer of human behavioral study to this compelling documentary. Without sight, the body moves differently just as standing is varied from those with sight. One observational scene is in a hallway where the blind are literally leading the blind. It’s simply a sight to see. The stark white, somewhat disturbing eyes of the totally blind, not concealed behind dark black glasses, reveal useless white orbs offering no visual assistance, moving in a mechanical quick-scan-like motion as if looking for details only to be found in the finger tips.

The three featured chess players are from different social classes. All are prodded by Charudatta Jadhav to continue with the game in hopes of bringing a medal to India and as a means of purpose and confidence for themselves. Each player has a distinct personality. Being young they all have typical issues on top of their already extraordinary personal circumstances. Although chess is important, all realize the importance of education. Anant is filmed at his home where his studies are stressed so that he may find employment to help his family struggling to live by minimal means. He is such a kind individual, attempting to appease those around him. Unfortunately, his game suffers. Darpan, who lost his sight at a very young age, details his day down to the minute and is very much involved in his studies and chess. SaiKrishna, partially sighted with the possibility of total vision loss, watches television, and demonstrates an amazing ability to recap game movements by rattling off the letters and numbers and in such a quick rhythm.

ALGORITHMS is an honest, compassionate portrayal encompassing the spirit of those who amplify the meaning of perseverance, who refuse to submit to a handicap by competing in a forum against those with a singular advantage – sight.

For more information or to donate:
All-India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB)

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