Any film benefits from being seen on the big screen, rarely more so than in the case of Eyes of a Beginner. “It’s pretty epic,” says writer-director-actor Rob Beare. “You really feel like you’re right there. Some of those panorama shots, mountain shots, they become so much more real. It really pops.”
The local filmmaker and his partner, cinematographer Michael Bemister, spent two months traveling through India, Nepal, Japan, and Indonesia making their debut feature, about a man who regains his sight after a lifetime of blindness. The first thing he sees is a picture of a Himalayan mountain, prompting his spiritual trek through Asia.
“It’s a metaphor to just open up your eyes and take in the world around you,” says Beare, who also stars in the film. “It goes back to that Buddhist philosophy of living in the moment, of looking at the word without mental noise and preconceptions.”
If the viewer does that, as Baer says, they “can just enjoy the ride.” And it’s quite a ride; a ravishingly photographed travelogue-cum-narrative that looks roughly a million times better than it should considering it was shot on the fly by the two-man crew on a tiny budget.
“We’ve both spent a lot of time behind cameras,” says Beare. “We’d just bounce ideas off each other, frame up shots, and go, ‘Alright, this looks good!’ Sometimes it took seconds, and sometimes we’d spend 30 minutes or so, which isn’t long by film standards, but was pretty long by our standards. There were so many times that we felt the angels were conspiring in our favour.”
Beare and Bemister were joined on the last leg of their trip by producer Clay Cillis and co-star Maryam Mehrtash —“it was so nice increasing our crew to four,” he laughs—but before that, they were on their own, getting chased along the way by a pack of man-eating dogs and facing an interrogation by Chinese officials at one point. Worst of all was the malaria.
“For the whole rest of India, we couldn’t do any close-ups because I was ravaged with mosquito bites,” Beare recalls with a sigh. “Sure enough Mike’s got, like, five on him… The whole time we were hiking the Himalayas, I was sick. Carrying all this camera gear, and being really sick.”
I’ve said it before: Werner Herzog has a lot to answer for.
Eyes of a Beginner gets its Vancouver premier when it plays on the BIG, BIG SCREEN at the Rio Theatre, on Saturday (December 8)