Just when I thought I had experienced it all

I wanted to sit down to write a blog post about turning 40 and all thing moments, memories and experiences I’ve worked so hard to experience and share. Amid juggling the concept and structure of the blog post – a process which can sometimes take a few hours or a few days – I got a note from the team at Netflix Canada. It had just under a week since I last got behind the wheel of my car to drive to Toronto, but I knew it they asked I would do it again. Much to my surprise, the event in question was in Ottawa and was an intimate gathering around a mini series that was launching in early November. Little did I know that while ruminating on the past I was about to have an immersive experience that I simply had to tell you about.

Before you go any further, I feel as though it is important I offer a trigger warning around the type of content depicted in the series which may be difficult for some to watch, read about or discuss based upon current happenings in the world.

First and foremost I should mention that when I was chatting with Netflix, they mentioned that the content and event were centered around Netflix’ dedication to inclusivity and progress in the accessibility space. That definitely peeked my interest since we are huge Netflix fans in this house and most series and mini series are enjoyed and binged almost immediately. This one felt different and for that I was excited.

“Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is a groundbreaking limited series that follows the story of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl and her father, Daniel LeBlanc, who flee German-occupied Paris with a legendary diamond to keep it from falling into the hands of the Nazis. Relentlessly pursued by a cruel Gestapo officer who seeks to possess the stone for his own selfish means, Marie-Laure and Daniel soon find refuge in St. Malo, where they take up residence with a reclusive uncle who transmits clandestine radio broadcasts as part of the Resistance. Yet here in this once-idyllic seaside city, Marie-Laure’s path also collides with the unlikeliest of kindred spirits: Werner, a brilliant teenager enlisted by Hitler’s regime to track down illegal broadcasts,
who instead shares a secret connection to Marie-Laure as well as her faith in humanity and the possibility of hope.”

Netflix’ adaption is nothing short of revolutionary in many ways. Before we dive in, watch the spectacular trailer below and I’ll meet you on the other side.

On a Tuesday night in Ottawa, I picked Julio up from work and we made our way to Canadian Museum of Nature for an intimate evening. Louis Hofmann and newcomer Aria Mia Loberti star in this epic drama directed by award-winning filmmaker Shawn Levy. And while all of that is amazing, there’s more.

What I had never given a lot of thought to out of my privilege which I whole heartedly acknowledge is that historically, this is the first production of this size and scope to cast blind roles authentically with blind actors. In fact the lead actor Aria Mia Loberti is not only blind, but this is her first acting role, ever. Which when you watch this series will blow your mind as much as it did mine.

Representation is so crucial in the world we live. Parallel to casting of this nature, as part of the queer community I feel just as strongly for decisions in the past of non-queer and non-trans actors being cast in roles that could have been filled by our community to support and uplift our community. So when this piece of information was freely offered to Julio and I before the screening, I felt empathy towards the subject and understood the significance of it all.

We also were lucky enough to be joined by a Q&A that included Heather Dowdy, Head of Product Accessibility at Netflix, Winnie Luk, Executive Director of the Disability Screen Office, and industry guests for a conversation about the series and accessibility in entertainment, led by the CNIB. Amid these discussions the importance of closed captions, audio descriptions were discussed, as well as Netflix’ dedication to continue to tell inclusive, progressive and representative stories in ways that more people can enjoy and resonate with.

As a closing note, I wanted to make mention of the fact that during the screening the audio descriptions and sub titles were on for those in the audience with vision impairment, and I have to acknowledge that I think this is something each and every one of you should turn on at home at least once to understand what it’s like. I didn’t think I would be so mesmerized and feel so much in the process, but here we are.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE premieres on Netflix Canada on November 2, 2023 and I hope that each and every one of you enjoy the series and the importance of the casting and creation of it in innovative ways as much as Julio and I did.

I hope you enjoyed reading and that if you’re not already, follow me on all platforms at @dothedaniel

Photos: Daniel Reyes Cocka and Sunwing Vacations

Don’t forget to be kind & laugh a little more this year 

Daniel Reyes Cocka xo 

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