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Friday / April 19.
HomeminewsMy Eyes: A Story about Love… and Eye Health

My Eyes: A Story about Love… and Eye Health

Lead Actor Eduardo Avila Sanchez, My Eyes, Photo: Henry Hu

Filming has begun in Melbourne on a movie – set for worldwide release – that will help raise the profile of inherited eye diseases through a heart-felt family drama written by an Australian optometrist.

Co-writer, co-producer, and actress, Tsu Shan Chambers said the origin of the film, My Eyes, stretches back to the 2000 Paralympic Games, when she was a young optometry student.

“I volunteered at the 2000 Paralympics for about three weeks, and it was an experience that changed my life,” Ms Chambers told mivision.

“I actually did fall in love with a judo athlete, who was vision impaired. It was quite a profound experience; it took me 20 years to write about it, but it is a story that needed to be told.”

Ms Chambers said there was a clean, although “heartbreaking” end to that relationship, but she used the real-life love affair as the starting point, weaving in a fictional child, and her desire to raise public awareness about eye health.

The result is My Eyes, which tells the story of an Optometry Masters student, Alana, who falls for Nico, a vision-impaired judo athlete training for the Paralympics. Years after their fling has ended, Alana must convince Nico to return to Australia to save her daughter’s vision.

While getting the movie off the ground, Ms Chambers has continued her work as an optometrist, primarily in a school eye screening program run by Straight Sight. The program delivers bulk-billed eye testing and free glasses to children in low-income areas of south-western Sydney.

A FOCUS ON AUTHENTICITY

Ms Chambers said the film explores retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and eye health generally, discussing gene therapy and treatments, in a way that’s “not preachy”.

The movie is Asian and Latinx-led, and focusses on “ability, rather than disability” with vision-impaired actors and crew “behind and in front of the camera”.

“It was super hard to get it to this point, we could have got an A-list actor to play a vision-impaired person – actors love to play those complex characters, but the authenticity wouldn’t be there.”

She said the character of Nico is played by Eduardo Avila Sanchez, a two-time Mexican Paralympic judo champion. While he doesn’t have RP, he is visually impaired by tunnel vision.

“What film shows the eye testing side of things, or eye care in general? I can’t think of another one. We wanted this film to influence positive change… to the general audience.”

The project received development funding by VIC Screen and is supported by eye health organisations including Vision Australia, the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists, and Optometry Australia, and sports organisations, Australia International Blind Sports Association, and the International Judo Federation.

She said after the movie is released it will be able to be used to educate people about eye health.

“Organisations like the Blind Sports Federation… want to use the film internationally as a tool for positive change and rehabilitation.”

She said the story has created real-life parallels for the film’s star.

“When Eduardo, who plays our Paralympic Judo Champion, was young, he was constantly bullied as a child. He acquired tunnel vision after a childhood accident but was undiagnosed for a very long time; everyone thought he was just clumsy.

“His teacher recommended that he get his eyes checked and they discovered this issue. He then got into judo and it changed his life. So, this is the change we can make,” she said.

My Eyes is prepared for world-wide distribution. It is produced and directed by industry-leading Australian filmmakers. The film is being shot in both Melbourne and Mexico, and is expected to be released in 2024.