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The Independent Critic

Jared Hara & The Hara Family
Talia Osteen
65 Mins.
 "Blindsided" Review 
Sometimes in darkness, we find ourselves...

There is a secret to fully embracing the documentary "Blindsided: The Movie."

You must understand and accept director Talia Osteen's mission as a director. Osteen states "As a filmmaker I always wanted to work on projects that I believed would be more than entertaining, but important. "Blindsided" turned out to be just that kind of project."

If you can understand this vision and accept it as Osteen's mission for "Blindsided," then you will find yourself inspired, educated and grateful by the time the closing credits roll.

"Blindsided: The Movie" is the story of Jared Hara, a young man whose seemingly ideal childhood is forever changed by a seemingly routine visit to his doctor's office at the age of 12.

Up to this point, Jared's life was what nearly anyone would consider blessed. Jared was born into a family where his needs were met, he had two deeply loving parents and a protective and caring older sister. In short, he was living an ideal childhood.

That seemingly routine doctor's visit at the age of 12 changed everything. It was discovered that Jared couldn't see out of one eye and, after multiple wrong diagnoses, Jared was diagnosed with Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.

Jared, a healthy, happy and athletic young man, would go permanently blind by the time he turned 13.

This diagnosis, however traumatic it was on the Hara family, is not the root story of "Blindsided."

Not at all.

It is undeniable, and presented vividly through personal interviews, that Jared's diagnosis and resulting blindness forever changed the dynamics of this family. It is also undeniable that the Hara family found something deeper within themselves...perhaps deeper than they even realized they could go. The Hara family, no doubt led by Jared's inspiring optimism and determination, discovered they could see light in even their darkest moments, hope through even their most hopeless times and, perhaps more important than anything, they could find a way to see the gifts within the pain they endured.

Jared's family, school, friends and doctors all participated in the filming of "Blindsided," and it is their testimonies and experiences that drive the heart of this 65-minute documentary that captured the prize for "Best Documentary Feature" at Spudfest this year. 

Osteen, in her directorial debut, presents "Blindsided" in a straightforward manner complemented marvelously by the cinematography of Mark Moorman, who also shot the marvelous "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music."

This straightforward manner largely works to the film's benefit as Osteen's direction provides a depth of intimacy often absent in documentaries based upon individuals. Whereas many filmmakers make their subjects seem larger than life, Osteen presents both the glory and the often stark humanity of Jared and his family. Only a fading camera shot during Jared's last hockey game seems particularly gratuitous.

In some ways, "Blindsided" reminds me of 2002's "Miracle in Lane 2," a Disney film starring Frankie Muniz based upon the life of Justin Yoder, a young man with spina bifida. As in that film, "Blindsided" doesn't just paint a pretty picture of an awe-inspiring young man. Osteen's film shares honestly the Hara's individual and family journeys through depression, fear, anger, guilt and reconciliation.

Perhaps the fact that "Blindsided" was filmed a mere two years after Jared's diagnosis contributes to the fact that the interviews, events and testimonies in "Blindsided" all feel deeply real, spontaneous and authentic. None of these individuals, with the possible exception of Jared's mother, seem particularly comfortable talking, being filmed or in the spotlight. Quite simply, they are here opening themselves up because of their respect for and love of Jared.

Jared's story alone is a powerful and inspirational story deserving to be told. However, the real irony of "Blindsided" is that it started out as a different story.

Osteen had originally envisioned a film about Jared and his best friend, a young man named Ali Hakim. Jared and Ali had announced plans to make the trek from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Nassau, The Bahamas...a 12-hour boat trip, except for the fact that Ali and Jared were going to make the trip on an inner tube.

Ali, a Lebanese Muslim, is THAT kind of friend to Jared, a Jew. He is the kind of friend who cried only once over his friend's dilemma...he then returned his focus to celebrating a friendship that blindness could not take away.

Yep, that's right. Throw into this inspirational story the story of a Muslim and a Jew who, through it all, are blind to their differences.

Finally, there is Jared himself.

Jared is an ordinary young man. He lives as normal a life as possible while living the life of an everyday high school student. Whereas he once envisioned life as a hockey player, Jared now focuses on playing guitar and hopes to find band members for his band, Gift of Pain. Inspired by the methods utilized to teach guitar, Jared's family has even founded TalkingTabs as an instructional technique specifically designed to teach the visually impaired to play guitar.

It is, in fact, these people inspired by Jared who close "Blindsided" with a gentle power. It is the looks of joy and the looks of hope on their faces as they hold their guitars that provides the perfect conclusion to a film that is so much more than entertainment.

"Blindsided" is an important film.

"Blindsided" is about Jared Hara and the circle of love that surrounds him. It's about a young man who took an event that could have destroyed his ideal childhood, but instead he turned into the ideal young man. It's about this young man's family and friends who, when faced with darkness, made a decision to see light.

"Blindsided" begs the question "If tomorrow your eyesight went away, what would you see?"

The Hara family has set up a website for all those interested in Talking Tabs. For more information on "Blindsided," visit the film's website at Blindsided: The Movie.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic