By Dongwhee Kim
As I’ve been working on creating a new audio description version for “Train to Busan,” which is considerably the most popular zombie movie in Asia, I often faced an obstacle when it comes to an issue of accessibility. To be more specific, I’ve been struggling to create an audio description that allows visually impaired people more access to the film. As Cavallo argues in her article, “Seeing the World,” audio description often, or always, stays neutral. And I wanted to break that politics to audio description to be neutral throughout the cinemas along this experiment. Of course, my revised audio descriptions are more informational than the original in terms of describing the situation and surroundings of the scene because I’ve included additional materials to revised AD. However, how can one ever be able to perfectly deliver such emotions within cinematic arts to visually impaired people? Sound effects, in some ways, are effective tools that assist me to deliver specific situation of the scene. Nevertheless, sound effects and audio description themselves are not sufficient enough for a visually impaired person to imagine the actual scene of the film I witness.
So, I’ve come up with this idea, inspired by Cavallo, why not letting visually impaired viewers to imagine what they WANT to imagine? As a experiment, I’ve created a new audio description that allows a different kind of interaction between describer and describee, just like Cavallo did in her performance. For instance, there’s a scene where a group of contaminated soldiers brutally attacking citizens at the train station. The original AD of the scene is as follows: “Sanghwa closes the glass platform entrance and places a wooden police baton between door handles. There are people who failed to escape struggling with contaminated soldiers. Seokwoo is among those.” I’ve turned this AD into a more informational and situational description for visually impaired people to imagine what they actually want to imagine, rather than listening to a neutral AD: “Sanghwa is panting and closing the glass platform entrance. Shaking his both hands, he quickly looked around and decided to place a wooden police baton between door handles. People outside the entrance, who did not make to the entrance, are desperately fighting back at soldiers. They are cruelly getting bitten. There’s a lady bitten her neck by a soldier screaming. Meanwhile, Seokwoo is using his entire body to survive from soldier’s brutal attack.” This revised audio description is intended to deliver not only the specific situation of the scene, but also a free-roam message that opens up more chances for viewers to imagine from their own perspective of the film. Several underlined words indicate my intended free-roam message to the viewers. Although they are not perfect and still in progress, such attempts to break the neutral policy of AD are exciting experiments. Because if no one questions or challenges the politics to audio description being neutral, how can a visually impaired person manage to have more access to cinematic arts?