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UK: Optimum Releasing
Cast: Ian Hart, Linus Roache, Mohamad Chamas, Ziad Lahoud, Fadi Sakr, Aisling O'Neill, Dany El Khoury, Bassem Breish, Mohamad Karim Koleilat, Aine Ni Mhuiri, Patrick Rocks, Tom Maguire, Michael Magee, Christopher Morelli, Bahi Ghubril, Stephen Don, Vic Tablian, Lynn Farleigh, Haroutioun Topoushian, Gary Mullan, Brian Devlin, Asbed Zaderian, Nayef Rashed
Director: John Furse
UK: 96 mins
UK Certificate: 15 contains strong language and violence
UK Release Date: 9 April 2004
BLIND FLIGHT is a prison drama and a love story. Brian Keenan's and John McCarthy's internationally famous imprisonment is a physical metaphor for their emotional journey to personal freedom. The film works on many levels; it is about two men from totally different backgrounds who only meet because of the accident of captivity but who learn to care for each other. Ultimately, BLIND FLIGHT is about how when people are stripped of everything they have, they can still find their own humanity.
Beirut, 1985. Brian Keenan (Ian Hart) is an Irishman from Belfast, teaching English in the troubled Arab city. He lives quietly, enjoying working with his students. He walks each day, from his seaside apartment to the college. One day he sets out as usual and a carload of armed men kidnap him.
He is bundled into the boot of the car and taken to an anonymous urban ruin and thrust into a tiny metal room which is to be his cell. He unsuccessfully demands information as to why he has been kidnapped and how long he might be held. His captors seem to think that he is British and demand information about his English friends. Brian makes it clear that, although he comes from Belfast, he has an Irish passport. His captors seem nonplussed by this distinction.
Isolated and alone, Brian is held in his tiny cell for many months. Life falls into its own strange pattern. The guards insist that he cover his eyes each time they enter the cell. For some time, Brian goes on hunger strike to draw attention to the injustice of his captivity. Occasionally, the sounds of life outside cell give him poignant or terrifying impressions: calls to prayer, anguished screams of other prisoners who are being beaten, the terrible finality of a pistol-shot from a nearby cell. In his silent loneliness, moments of his past in Belfast invade his mind: his childhood, the torments of the divided community, the desolation of the life he had abandoned.
Later, suddenly and with no warning, the guards burst in, he is told to dress and is thrust blindfolded into a car and huddles down on the floor, hurtling to who knows where... He is taken to a desolate storeroom. He has been handed over to a new set of guards and, once they have left him, he tentatively lifts his blindfold - and discovers that there's another captive across the room carefully lifting the edge of his own blindfold. This is John McCarthy (Linus Roache).
Brian and John are completely different personalities from completely different backgrounds. To begin with, their attempts to "explain" themselves to each other just seem to widen the gap between them. Brian is a working-class Protestant Republican from Belfast - tetchy, suspicious, balanced by having a chip on both shoulders. John is middle-class, very English in spite of an Irish father, apolitical, uncertain what to make of the prickly Irishman he finds himself incarcerated with.
The two somehow manage to survive various prisons and guard changes forced to live in inhuman conditions until one day, guards come in and take Brian out of the room. Outside, he is told that he is going home. Uncertain, since "going home" might mean being shot, when he realises that they literally mean that he is free, he unsuccessfully demands to see John. Brian finds himself being driven through the countryside, half-blinded by the light.
John is left, quietly singing to himself, in the fundamental loneliness of his cell.
Back in Ireland, Brian is feted and delivers a moving eulogy to John and their friendship. Images and memories of John invade his dreams. And then, one day, he takes a call in a bar. Brian makes a rum and wine punch and drinks and dances to celebrate the release of his friend.
Later, Brian and John meet at the airport and embrace in the sureness and intensity of their friendship.