The premise sounds shallow, even exploitative, but last month I sat in a room alongside hardened journos some of whom were wiping away the tears when they heard from participants from SBS series Look Me in the Eye.
The series sees estranged family members, friends and colleagues sit down face to face for 5 minutes without speaking a word. Cameras capture what happens next.
Hosted by Ray Martin and produced by Endemol Shine Australia the series is based on a UK format developed by CPL Productions.
Ray Martin said: “The beauty of a TV program like this is that as a kind of ‘social experiment’, it’s every man and every woman. If it didn’t happen to you, it happened to someone you know. Like First Contact, I think this is a really positive series in the sense that people will realise that we’re not alone, in our thoughts or our circumstances.”
Marshall Heald, SBS Director of Television and Online Content, said: “SBS continues to deliver fresh and creative cut-through approaches to explore important Australian issues. Estrangement in families and friends is a modern malaise but for multicultural communities it’s an issue at the very heart of social cohesion,” he said.
“Look Me In The Eye is a fantastic new format being brought to Australian audiences for the very first time. It’s an exciting new experiment based on the proven counseling technique of non-verbal communication.”
More than three million Australians are estranged from their loved ones*. When all other attempts have failed, it’s time to try something different.
Hosted by Ray Martin, Look Me In The Eye explores what happens when two estranged people come face to face – without conversation – to look each other in the eye. The brand new six-part documentary series premieres Wednesday 6 September at 8.30pm on SBS.
Look Me In The Eye features Australians from a wide range of backgrounds who are genuinely looking to reconnect with someone in their life. Each of those seeking to reconnect has an unresolved conflict, or has drifted apart from a family member, friend or colleague.
Without words getting in the way, can a 33 year marriage be saved? Can a single mum win back her only son? Will a daughter forgive the dad who walked away from the family? Or, will a former child soldier see remorse in the eyes of the man who he says tortured him?
In complete silence, two individuals are brought together in a room. One is the person seeking to reconnect with someone they have become estranged from; the other is the person they want to reconnect with. Sitting face to face, they simply look each other in the eye for at least five minutes, without speaking.
After the period of eye contact, the two individuals are given time alone in separate rooms where they deliberate on whether they want to reconnect with the other person – or choose to leave without seeing them again.
Wednesday 6 September, 8.30pm on SBS.