For 53 years, John Kapellas enjoyed the bright sky of the western US but one day he started to burn, blister and break out in rashes whenever he was exposed to light. Now allergic to the entire spectrum of light, Kapellas has spent the last decade living in complete darkness. When one of the side effects of the drugs John was prescribed made him ‘go nuts,’ he started drawing gigantic abstract pictures on his wall and playing the piano to calm his mind and soothe his pain. How to Make a Pearl explores Kapellas’ coping mechanisms and how he is turning the ‘grit’ of past trauma into a ‘pearl’ of reflective creativity.
John has spent over 10 years living in complete darkness, yet seems unfettered by the limitations imposed by his environment. His social interactions are sporadic and his world has shrunk to the interior of his home, but he finds fulfilment and enlightenment in his everyday life.
This is not the first time John has had to navigate the pain and joy of being alive. He witnessed domestic abuse as a small child, is a Vietnam veteran, a divorcee, and lost several gay friends and lovers to HIV/AIDS. Yet in his life in the dark, he has an uncanny ability to look back at his past with fondness and to the future with hope.
Director, Producer and Editor: Jason Hanasik
Executive Producer: Minette Nelson
Executive Producers for the Guardian: Charlie Phillips and Lindsay Poulton