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Hat-trick of Bafta nominations for film co-directed by former Norwich University of the Arts student

PUBLISHED: 10:57 10 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:33 10 January 2017

Scenes from the film Notes on Blindness which has been directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney. Image: Into Darkness Ltd.

Scenes from the film Notes on Blindness which has been directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney. Image: Into Darkness Ltd.

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A former Norwich University of the Arts student is celebrating his poignant film about sight loss receiving a trio of Bafta nominations.

Peter Middleton and James Spinney, directors of the film Notes on Blindness. Photo: Roberta Matis. Peter Middleton and James Spinney, directors of the film Notes on Blindness. Photo: Roberta Matis.

Notes on Blindness - co-directed by former NUA student Pete Middleton and fellow filmmaker James Spinney who also has links to Norfolk - is one of six movies in the running for Outstanding British Film in this year’s EE British Academy Film Awards.

The film - inspired by an audio diary created by university professor John Hull as he was losing his sight - has been shortlisted in the category alongside American Honey, Denial, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I, Daniel Blake and Under the Shadow. It is also shortlisted in the Outstanding Debut and Documentary categories.

Pete said that the filmmakers found out about the nominations when Bafta announced them on Twitter this morning.

“It’s incredible really for a little independent film like ours to be nominated,” he said.

Scenes from the film Notes on Blindness which has been directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney. Image: Into Darkness Ltd. Scenes from the film Notes on Blindness which has been directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney. Image: Into Darkness Ltd.

“So many people have worked tirelessly on the film. It’s been five-and-a-half years since myself and James began the project. It’s quite something to be standing here with three nominations. It is really terrific. It has been a collective effort.”

Notes on Blindness is based on the audio diary of John Hull, a writer and theologian who taught at the University of Birmingham and who lost his sight in the 1980s. He published his recordings in the book Touching the Rock, and the film looks at how Prof Hull adjusts to sight loss and goes on to discover a world beyond sight.

Pete said: “The guy at the heart of it all is John Hull. He sadly passed away while we were shooting in 2015 and he has not been around to see the film get the reception that it has. To get the nominations is a wonderful tribute to John and his life and work.”

Pete’s parents, Richard and Andrea Middleton, live in Norwich and both appear in the film.

Pete’s father said they were extremely proud of their son and the film’s success.

Richard said: “It has been a long journey. It’s been about five years from the tapes and getting the funding. “It has been a mammoth task and it’s really pleasing to see that it has come to fruition.

“The film also won the Best British Documentary Award in the British Independent Film Awards. They have really done well with it and I think they (Pete and James) are really pleased that people think they have produced a real work of art.

“They see it as a work of art as well as a film.”

The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival and other awards it has won include the Special Jury Prize at the San Francisco Film Festival and the Innovation and Storytelling Award at the Sheffield Doc/Fest.

A virtual reality experience created alongside the film has also won awards and the filmmakers have also created alternative soundtracks as part of a campaign to make films more accessible to visually-impaired audiences.

Do you have a Norwich arts story? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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