Sunday, January 27, 2013

Big D or Little D Controversy

I say it time and time again. "Every time I make a film ,I get a new education", this time is NO different.Yes that is a Big N.

When I made my first feature film "The Goal" I learned about TBI and SCI.(Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury along with Quad & Para, and what it means to be on Quad time or to work your program).With the 2nd film Dandy Kids, I learned about DWS & DWM, Hydrocephalus, and shunts,and on and on.(Dandy Walker Syndrome,and Dandy Walker Malformations)The 3rd  feature was a different genre altogether,so lets move on to the current and 4th feature film project "Spirit of Love".

In the process of making this film I learned about Big D and Little D.While our film may not be Big D it is Little D with some Big D moments.Big D is Deep Deaf Culture, no exceptions.Our film is not steeped deep in Deaf culture.It is a film that raises awareness of the differences that exist within the deaf and hard of hearing communities to educate the hearing communities.It is a film that promotes and inspires teens or anyone who has ever felt different or lacking in skills to "Just Do It" try it,dream it.  It is a film that opened the door for many deaf & hearing teens to have an experience of a lifetime.

Just like the differences that exist in each American there are numerous differences within the deaf & hard of hearing as well.I have even been told Deaf encompasses Hard of Hearing, but even that brings controversy.

I made a clear decision that I wanted to use deaf teens to tell our story and not hearing teens.However what I soon learned was that there are many variations of deaf. Most of the teens who auditioned for our film grew up with different levels and types of hearing loss for a wide variety of medical and non medical reasons.It was anticipated by me that all of the kids who showed up would be fluent in ASL.They were not.I learned that most have grown up with a combination of different modalities which work for them and their families.Some use hearing aides,lip read,have implants,and some of their signing is not true ASL.Some use English signing while others use something in between.Even my own nephew uses hearing aids and without them he hears nothing.

Obviously when you have adults who grew up learning sign language over 50 years ago they are more English and not ASL.Even adults or children currently suffering recent hearing loss will not be fluent in ASL overnight.

As a director and producer and teacher I learned a long time ago to focus on the positive of what each actor,teen or person brings to the table.If I chose to cast all hearing teens then I would not adequately be representing the story.If I refused to use the teens who showed up and discriminate against them because they were from the Little D world, then I would be hypocritical to the message and purpose of the film.

The teens and adults in our film represent the modalities of communication which are right for them.It works for them.Their accents are authentic.How they speak is exactly how they speak.They are not like actors in some productions, who fake a deaf accent to emphasize hearing loss.
Its inevitable that no filmmaker anywhere is going to make a film that everyone agrees on and in the case of "Spirit of Love" I am no different.
At the end of the day I am proud of our film and all of our "Spirit of Love" family who brought their amazing gifts to the set each day and delivered a truly inspiring film and story.Our film is causing discussions and inspiration so we did our job.
Here are some recent quotes recently received.
The coaches from the movie inspired me. It's a good movie, very encouraging.

The movie tells us that deaf can do anything and it's a really inspiring story. It shows us that we can work hard and suceed.

"Always play hard no matter what and don't back down no matter what". This quote from the movie hit me. Thank you for the movie - Kentucky boys.

The movie seemed to inspire our boys from Kentucky. In my opinion, I'd like to see more signers in the movie so it will impact Deaf children more and tell them that we are capable to do anything.

The positive aspects of the movie: it showed a diversity of deaf individuals (deaf, hard of hearing, signing, oral, disabled, mixed races), emphasized discipline, good feedback and reinforcement shown by the coaches in the movie.

The negative aspects of the movie: too oral, not much ASL usage, not culturally Deaf.

I feel the movie showed too much of an "hearing attitude" to Deaf.

 Signed English not ASL was the dominant language.

1 comment:

  1. As a longtime (28 years) volunteer with the Mike Glenn Basketball Camps for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing" held in Metro Atlanta, I have experienced a multitude of opinions from both inside and outside the deaf community as to the merits of using sign language, lip reading, implants, etc. While everyone is always intitled to their own opinion on any subject, I truly hope that we don't lose sight of the purpose of this inspirational film.