(Credit: Cameron Venti)

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Blind student lands lead role in Netflix World War drama series

While the cinema industry has been grappling with the debates regarding inclusivity and diversity for years, Netflix’s recent step has been lauded by one and all, especially disability rights groups, for giving an untrained blind student the opportunity to star in a lead role in an upcoming second world war epic drama series. 

Titled All the Light We Cannot See, the series has chosen Aria Mia Loberti, who has no formal training in acting, as its lead character-a move that has been warmly welcomed and appreciated by disability rights activists all over the world. 

Adapted from Anthony Doer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the four-part series will see Loberti as a blind teenager named Marie-Laure who will see herself fighting for survival in a Nazi-occupied France with a German soldier named Wener. Set during the devastation and despair of the Second World War, the series will also focus on the brutalities and fatalities of warfare

Steven Knight, who is known for his acclaimed BAFTA-winning show Peaky Blinders and the immigrant thriller film Dirty Pretty Things, will be adapting the project. 

Despite having no training, Loberti’s innate talent moved the casting director, especially Knight who gushed over her skills and spoke of how they are “fortunate” to have cast someone who is “born with it”

He said, “She did several auditions which are absolutely remarkable,” before calling her “amazing”. 

The series will be helmed by Shawn Levy, known for his brilliant work on the sets of Stranger Things and Night at the Museum franchise. He spoke of how they “searched the world and reviewed thousands of auditions” to find the perfect fit for the role, never imagining to cast “someone who has not only never acted professionally but never auditioned before.”

Talking about what led them to cast Loberti, he said that their meeting was “a jaw-drop moment” given the latter’s talent and ability as “both a natural performer and an advocate for disability.” 

Levy concluded, “I can’t wait to tell this beautiful story with her at the centre.”

This is a huge milestone in Loberti’s life as well, for she has always campaigned for the blind and partially-sighted communities. 

Talking about her condition, she said, “I have a rare and severe form of a genetic eye condition called achromatopsia. As a result, I’m completely blind in some environments and have a minimal, variable residual vision in others.”

Loberti is currently a PhD student in rhetoric at Penn State University as a US-UK Fulbright scholar. 

Loberti is set to play a strong character whose dialogues in the novel are profound, evocative and poignant as she takes her disability into her stride and constantly fights inhibitions regarding the same. 

Talking about Doer’s masterpiece, she expressed her immense gratitude for this opportunity while describing the book as an “intricately crafted story of hope, forgiveness, power and resilience.”

Netflix has already gained a lot of appreciation for incorporating sign language in some films, being inclusive in terms of representing the deaf and mute.  Now, this new move shows how the streamer is genuinely playing a huge role in changing the various stigmas surrounding deafness, blindness and more. By not casting well-known actors in major roles and branching towards casting people from the community, the streamer is acknowledging the various nuances to make the portrayal seem more raw and sincere.