The new film from director Darius Marder, has received a lot of buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019. It follows Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, Rogue One), the drummer of a two-piece band as he navigates tinnitus, which is evolving into permanent hearing loss.
Ruben and his girlfriend, Louise, played by Olivia Cooke, are modeled on a real band called Jucifer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In the film, the duo are waiting to do a soundcheck at a club when Ruben’s ear pops, and he is unable to hear much of anything around him. He realizes this is not a temporary experience and finds an audiologist. The audiologist tells Ruben he can expect even more deterioration and that he should eliminate exposure to loud noise.
In denial, he continues to play the drums before Louise takes action. She finds a 13-step group for the deaf. The group’s leader Joe, played by Paul Raci, encourages her to drop Ruben off at the center indefinitely while he works through the program and his newfound hearing loss. (Raci brings his own life experience to the screen in this role. He is the son of a deaf parent. His knowledge of American Sign Language has made deaf-oriented theater a part of his acting career.)
Exclaim reports that all screenings of the film come with closed captioning. The sound designer mirrors Ruben’s condition in the film’s audio. Additionally, in scenes where non-signing Ruben is living in deaf communities, there are no subtitles. This means only those who know ASL will be able to make sense of the conversations taking place.
Read more: How to learn sign language
“It was important to me that the film was genuine and visceral in its approach, and that the story provide a window into a culture and way of life that encapsulates so many people: Deaf, hard of hearing, and CODA (Children of Deaf Adults),” Marder said in a press release. “In order to create an authentic experience of deafness, Riz wore custom devices in his ears that emitted a white noise of varying intensity, thus allowing him to experience the closest approximation to progressive deafness that we could simulate, including the inability to hear even his own voice.”
“It was important to me that the film was genuine and visceral in its approach.”
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