Face To Face With Filmmaker Jose Garrotte

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Belo Cipriani with his former guide dog Madge.

On Tuesday, April 30, filmmaker Jose Garrotte will appear at the Face-To-Face With The Filmmaker series, which is presented by Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema. Garrotte will be screening his latest work Invidente (Sightless) a short documentary about Belo Cipriani, a writer who lost his sight at the age of 26. The screening, followed by a Q & A and reception, takes place from 7-8:30 PM at Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Avenue.

Invidente packs a lot of information into its 25 minute running time. Garrotte’s camera follows Cipriani through various aspects of his life, which includes his tenure as writer-in-residence at Oakland’s Holy Names University, a position he held for several years. Viewers will also see Cipriani as he engages in his favorite sport, the Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira. In spite of his disability, Cipriani has no problem keeping up with fellow Capoeira students.

Jose Garrotte

The film also introduces us to Cipriani’s two guide dogs, his former guide dog Madge and his current canine companion Oslo. The dogs help him to navigate the streets of the city, which can be quite dangerous for a blind person. The dogs serve as Cipriani’s eyes, helping him to cross the street safely and to avoid anything which might put his safety at risk.

Most fascinatingly, Cipriani shows viewers the adaptive technology which allows him to pursue his work as a writer. An app in his computer literally reads his emails aloud to him and reads the words he types into the computer back to him. Cipriani is the author of the award winning book Blind: A Memoirwhich chronicles how he lost his sight and his subsequent rehabilitation. Most recently, Cipriani edited the anthology Firsts: Coming Of Age Stories By People With Disabilitiesin which people with various kinds of disabilities share their personal histories.

Invidente is a very personal introduction to a fascinating person, one who didn’t let becoming disabled stop him from living his life to the fullest.

Jose Garrotte is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in filmmaking.   He has worked as a news editor for Telemundo, and has also worked for the news division at Univision. He met Cipriani while at Univision–Cipriani’s mother won a makeover at the network’s annual Mother’s Day contest.

“We just started talking,” Garrotte said in an interview. “Belo speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and he started telling me about what happened to him. He didn’t explain in detail, but as we talked, I realized that this would make a good story for a film.”

Garrotte originally had hoped to make a feature film. “But I realized it would be too hard for me because I was working full time,” he said. “Making a feature film is complicated–you need money, so I thought that making a documentary short would be better. I didn’t have to hire anyone, I could do it all myself.”

Garrotte spoke of what it was that attracted him to Cipriani’s story.

“He’s so smart,” Garrotte said. “Writing a book while being blind, working with all the software. He feels like he can do anything, he’s a person who moves forward. He has a willingness to survive in his life even though he has a disability. Sometimes, we who have vision, we who don’t have a disability, sometimes we complain about life. This guy, Belo, he’s blind, but he has a willingness to do everything. He’s always going forward, advocating for people with disabilities, and he doesn’t stop. He’s amazing!”

To Garrotte, the message of Invidente is simple. “People without disabilities complain that they cannot achieve their goals in life,” he said. “I want people to get that feeling, that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can do whatever you want to do in your life.”

Join Jose Garrotte for the premiere of this very special film on Tuesday night. Information on the screening can be found here. 

For more information on Belo Cipriani, please visit his website.

Full disclosure: The author of this piece contributed an essay to the book Firsts: Coming Of Age Stories By People With Disabilities. 

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David-Elijah Nahmod

David-Elijah Nahmod

I, David-Elijah Nahmod am a Queer, American/Israeli dual national of Syrian descent who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv.
Currently in San Francisco, my eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications (news and entertainment) and monster magazines. In 2012 I was voted Film Reviewer of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.
Look for me in Bay Area Reporter, Hoodline.com, South Florida Gay News, Echo Magazine, Outfront, Scary Monsters Magazine, Videoscope, and, of course, Broke Ass Stuart, (I'm so broke it's SCARY!)
Now, let's watch a horror movie!