“Audible” premiered last month at the prestigious Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. This doc short caught our attention on two counts. Firstly, for the double meaning in the title “Audible.” It refers to the obvious sound connotation and the football term (calling for a change of play at the line of scrimmage).
Secondly, and more importantly, because it comes across as one of those rare films that takes the time to understand deaf culture, identity, and community before portraying it on screen.
“[“Audible”] comes across as one of those rare films that takes the time to understand deaf culture, identity, and community before portraying it on screen.”
Read more: Deaf Community and Deaf Culture
In recent years we have seen several coming of age films about deafness (the latest being “CODA”). The teenage transitional phase holds special importance. It’s when those of us with hearing loss must prepare to adjust to the hearing world on our own.
In “Audible,” we follow high school star footballer Amaree McKenstry and his mates in their final semester. The trailer, which debuted on Observer, shows a glimpse of the whopping 42-match winning streak that the team must defend with great resilience.
While the kids stomp out their inhibitions and graduation pressures on field, we learn more about them from other points of view. We see how they deal with the death of a dear friend. McKenstry’s relationships with his family and his girlfriend are revealed. The perspectives of their coach and a cheerleader are also shown.
What sets “Audible” apart is the director’s intent.
Behind “Audible” is award-winning director Matt Ogens, along with executive producers Peter Berg (of Film 45) and deaf actor and activist Nyle DiMarco.
Read more: Is ‘Deaf U’ good for the deaf community?
“We used the word [silent] in a treatment,” Ogens told Variety. “Mr. Tucker, who is the superintendent of the school, who is really the god there that let us in, that’s stuck with me for 10 years now, and believed in me. He is like, it’s not silent. Well, first of all, in a literal sense. Deafness, hard of hearing, it runs a spectrum, right? It’s not all just 100 percent deaf. People have cochlear implants, hearing aids. There’s different levels.”
Ogens also took six weeks of an introductory course in American Sign Language to educate himself in the basics. He says he felt good about Netflix for its accessibility. The timing of subtitles and attention to the subtitling itself help distinguish “Audible” from an average film about hearing loss.
How “authentic” the documentary is in its depiction of hearing loss remains to be seen.
In the meantime, there are several deaf film festivals around the world that bring forth interesting perceptions on hearing loss and sensitize the hearing audience at the same time. These films and documentaries like “Audible” serve as an artistic bridge between the deaf and the hearing communities.