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A chat with… Sheri Hagen

INTERVIEW. Actress Sheri Hagen's directional debut, Auf den zweiten Blick, explores loneliness and disability in Berlin as three visually impaired couples learn to open themselves up to real relationships.

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The blind lead in Sheri Hagen’s “Auf den zweiten Blick”.

Set in a snow-covered, unhospitable-looking Berlin, actress Sheri Hagen’s directional debut, Auf den zweiten Blick, tells the story of three visually impaired couples as they learn to cope with their visual impairment, accept help from others and face reality. The film initially portrays the loneliness that the visually impaired can experience, but the more the characters open up to human contact and develop relationships with each other, the more the film brightens up: honest and heartwarming without falling back on stereotypes or glossing over the facts. The film hits Berlin cinemas on October 10.

Do you have a lot of blind friends? Why choose them as a subject?

Before I made the film, I didn’t know any visually impaired people personally. I just saw them on the street. In my neighbourhood there’s a society for the blind. I came across many blind people just in everyday life; not because I knew them but because I would see them at the bus stop or when taking a stroll around the neighbourhood.

The film depicts the loneliness that blind people have to deal with.

Loneliness does play an important role in the film, that’s right. It feels to me as if the society we live in becomes more and more focussed on individuals, meaning many people – and I’m not only talking about Berlin but Germany as a whole – are less open to human contact. They would rather live alone and spend time on their computers than seek actual human interaction. Social platforms have replaced actual interaction with other people. The bus or the tram used to be a wonderful opportunity to meet new people but by now that’s not possible anymore because most people are just looking at their Iphones and not at their fellow passengers. Therefore many young people, and of course middle-aged and older people as well, have become isolated and lonely. The word ‘family’ doesn’t mean the same thing it used to mean. Interpersonal relationships are becoming less and less frequent.

So you intended to confront people with the topic of loneliness?

Exactly. I wanted to show the anonymity that occurs simultaneously with loneliness. A person could die and their neighbours wouldn’t even notice because there’s no contact between neighbours anymore. There are so many people, older people, who become more and more isolated in their apartments and their houses. They aren’t connected to the outside world. People with disabilities are very important to me, but also people like you and me who might live with a partner or their familiy but might still be isolated.

Does the film suggest a solution to this?

I would love for the film to appeal to people to open up more to others. To walk around with their eyes open and find some sort of contact with other people. To lose their fear of anything foreign – not specifically skin colours but also disabilities – simply to lose their fear of other people.

Auf den Zweiten Blick opens in Berlin cinemas on October 10. Check our OV search engine for showtimes.