Sunday, September 19, 2010

See what I'm saying

I have been gorging on sign language this weekend. 

I have been in attendance at The First Hong Kong International Deaf Film Festival, featuring more than thirty Deaf films from around the world including France, the United States, Austria, Finland, Italy, Britain, China, Korea, Australia and Hong Kong. In case you were wondering, Deaf films are those that have significant involvement of persons who are deaf, as directors, actors, playwrights, etc. So although most of the films were entirely in sign language, some were typical English films written, produced, and filmed by a Deaf person. 

I found it just as nerve-wracking to walk into a room full of Deaf people here in Hong Kong as I  use to feel at the Deaf Club in Perth. I stand out even more here as a white person who knows nothing at all about Hong Kong Sign Language. I wish I had Lorene or Donna or Kristen to accompany me! However, it felt wonderful to be back in a room full of people using their hands to communicate, with the humming and clicking sounds, laughs and grunts that make up their universal deafisms.  I did summon the courage to talk to five Deaf people this weekend, and we found a way to communicate. 

Following are some of the films I enjoyed this weekend:

See What I’m Saying is a documentary about four Deaf entertainers: a stand-up comedian, a drummer in an all-deaf rock band, an actor and Juilliard professor who is homeless, and a singer. The film follows them as they navigate their personal and professional lives over the course of a year and try to win over the mainstream/hearing audience. 

Audism Unveiled exposes and explains another form of oppression prevalent in the Deaf community. Going beyond definitions, this powerful documentary uses real life experiences from Deaf people of varied social, racial, and educational boundaries, showing how this form of oppression does lasting and harmful damage.

Raving for One This is an entertaining romantic farce. A girl with a heart of gold finds herself in a dilemma of hilarious proportions when three guys desperately seek her affections.

Don’t Mind? Bill opens his home when he is unexpectedly asked to baby-sit a neighbour’s daughter. The child invites chaos and confusion in his orderly life.

Preservation of Sign Language George Veditz (1861-1937) launched this project in 1913 at the National Association of the Deaf (U.S.) in response to the tragic aftermath of Milan 1880 where oralist proponents at the International Congress on Education of the Deaf voted to ban sign language. Veditz is filmed in ASL with an English translation by Carol A. Padden.

Birds of a Feather

Gallaudet A film about Gallaudet University, an internationally known university for the Deaf.

Stiletto William Mager, Deaf filmmaker, directed this film. It could happen to anyone, in any bar in town. A Hitchcock Blonde confronts an unwitting stranger. She draws his attention to the other clientele, among them a businessman whom she implies once attacked her, yet went unpunished. The woman asks the stranger to mind her handbag while she goes to powder her nose. She does not return. The stranger discovers that the handbag contains a bomb. There's only one way to stop the bomb going off. A simple matter of murder. 

50/50 Andy is Deaf, Jez is hearing, and they are both broke and living in a van. Jez dreams up a series of perfect get-rich scams, but Andy is having doubts. 

Coming Home Mark, a young deaf man, adopted by hearing parents, is determined to uncover the truth about his past but in so doing reveals a tragic family secret. Mark and his girlfriend, Kate, travel to Suffolk to find out about his birth mother, and why she gave Mark up for adoption. 

Me and My Wacky Doctor A silent comedy which follows the experience of a Deaf patient as he tries to get his Disability Living Allowance form signed by his doctor. What should be a simple trip to the doctor's becomes a challenge as the crazy doctor tries to prove that the Deaf patient can actually hear, using antiquated, and strange medical techniques!

The Boy from Before This drama is a four-part series about a ghost of a boy from the 1940's who visits a school for deaf students. The show teaches lessons about friendship and bullying.

Departure Lounge Departure Lounge is a celebration of the friendship and deaf solidarity that develops between Sid, an ailing older man and Matt, a young hospital cleaner. Sid is angry, frightened and isolated. Neither his doctors nor his wife, Morag, seem able to help or comfort him. Matt, is also frightened and uncertain. He has a partner, Jill, and a baby, but Matt is running away from his responsibilities. It is their deafness that creates the initial bond between the two men. Matt breaks down Sid's isolation by taking him up on to the roof of the hospital and together they create a sort of deaf club in the sky. Here they sit and talk, fall out and make up, speculate on the wonders of a deaf heaven, and slowly come to realise that, despite everything, each can give courage to the other. 


  1. maybe if they have a second annual - I can tag along with you so you don't have to go alone.
    I only know about 5 ASL signs, so I won't be any help but I would be interested.

  2. wishing I was there too!