At the first go, the theme of the movie Algorithms, directed by Ian McDonald – ‘Four moves in, we are all blind’ – may be difficult to understand.
Thirty minutes into the documentary, one is clear that this is not just another movie about triumph in sports, but a well-nuanced documentary around the lives of four blind chess players. Through the movie, screened at the Asian College of Journalism in association with the British Council recently, the audience got to see through another sense that was ‘touch.’ The documentary began with nimble fingers moving across the chess board at the Junior championships and moves being called out—K64,F5.
The scene showed that tactility is the only medium for them to navigate the chess pieces as well as other things in the world.
The main characters are four visually-challenged players — Darpan, Saikrishna, Ananth and their mentor Charudatta Jadav, a former national chess champion — who are united by chess. The narration is set between World Junior Blind Chess Championship in Sweden, 2009 to its subsequent edition in Greece, 2011.
Post-screening, Ian McDonald opened up to the audience on his journey of the film, along with the documentary producer Geeta J, film critic Baradwaj Rangan and Bharat Joshi, British Deputy High Commissioner, Chennai.
“I came across a newspaper story after a chess tournament for the blind in 2006. I had the paper cutting in my wallet for two years and then thought that something need to be done about this. After two years of research, I came back to India in 2009 and started shooting,” said Ian.
“We made a conscious effort to present the film in black and white as we felt that certain elements could be carried out well that way,” said Ian and added that they kept in mind the fact that the chess board was black and white, which gave a new dimension to the film.
“We knew that the subject was something that only a documentary could shed light on,” said Geetha J, producer of Algorithms.
The one-of-its-kind film film has been screened at various International Film Festivals. It won the Prix du Patrimoine Culturel Immateriel at the Jean Rouch International Film Festival Paris, 2013 and the Rambahadur Tamang Trophy at the 9th Film South Asia (FSA) festival.