I attended the LSSF on Friday 17th January to view a selection of short films on Deafness. This years program was advertised as a selection of films which “navigates the ‘in between’ – from the grey areas of unspoken language to the vibrations of club life, to silent brotherly bonds formed and solace found in the cacophony of the city.”
One of the films, “Nice Talking to You” by Saim Sadiq stuck with me in particular. This film followed two characters who meet at an ASL (American Sign Language) event. They flirt with each other and throughout the course of a day we see them interacting with each other in ASL. We are given a subtle suggestion that one of the characters is either hearing or deaf by being able to use a telephone. However, when the two characters are communicating they are doing so in full ASL without using speech. It is not until towards the end of the film when the female character stops to listen to music and the male character starts singing along do they then realise that they were both capable of communicate via speech having spent a whole day signing to each other. After this event they continue to spend time together only instead now communicating via speech instead of ASL.
During the Q and A panel afterwards, which was initially about very well created documentary on “A Sonic Pulse” by Dorothy Allen-Pickard and Antoine Marinot, the conversation quickly shifted to discuss Deaf people’s feelings on the last film that was shown which was “Nice Talking to You” as the film was clearly fresh and strong in the audience’s minds. First and foremost, Martin, a deaf musician who was in “A Sonic Pulse” strongly felt that the film was “taking advantage” of ASL from a hearing perspective in order to generate a storyline and that there was no obvious conclusion to the end of it, such as suggesting that ASL was a “good thing”, therefore it wasn’t a positive representation of the Deaf community. Personally I disagreed, the film wasn’t intended to give a strong message about ASL in particular but instead it was about how the beauty of language shared can bring people together. The two hearing characters are brought closer together because they can both sign and develop this relationship that would only be possible because they could sign, most obviously during a scene they are signing across a train platform. Once it is revealed that they can both speak we almost get a sense of the characters drifting apart. She is interrupted by her mother on the phone, speaking in her native tongue, Arabic. As the female character has to leave for the airport, they do one last sign to each other giving a sense of re-connection but ultimately she must go back home to Lebanon.
This event got me thinking that I would like to see films created by d/Deaf filmmakers that don’t resolve around Deaf issues. I have no doubt that creativity is not lost in the Deaf community and the potential is there for Deaf artists to be integrated with many other areas of the LSSF and beyond. Perhaps there are films out there already but we don’t know of them because they don’t advertise as such. In the end, is that a good thing?