REVIEW: ‘The Silent Child’ – an authentic and emotional Oscar-winning film

‘Short and sweet’ is perhaps the best way to describe Rachel Shenton’s Oscar-winning film, The Silent Child. At a length of just 20-minutes, the debut production from the former Hollyoaks actress succeeds at painting an authentic and pure picture of a scenario many deaf young people face today.

Photo: BBC See Hear/The Silent Child.

Set in a rural countryside village, the film follows a typical family with bubbly child Libby (played by deaf actress Maisie Sly) at its heart. Born deaf, it’s soon established that she has struggled to communicate with the wider world. That is, until support worker Joanne (played by Shenton) is called in by the family to break down the communication barrier.

With charming shots from Chris Overton of Joanne riding her bicycle across country lanes, Shenton’s character has an air of Nanny McPhee about her. With textbooks in hand and the occasional sweet treat, Joanne offers her own real-life magic when she introduces Libby to the magic of sign language – one of the most heart-warming moments of the short film being when Libby signs for the first time.

What follows is the growing anxieties of a mother who sees a child deviating from the ‘mainstream’ route of speech and oralism. From the start, we see mum Sue (Rachel Fielding) portrayed as a snotty, arrogant mother which, at times, falls into cliché traits deaf viewers would have seen or experienced all too often – most likely because the forced oralism of hearing parents on deaf children is far from a rare occurrence.

As soon as we see the upbeat and powerful proof of how expressive British Sign Language can be, the film takes a much more tragic turn as a result of the above. Visual set-ups on-screen create a perfect visual metaphor for how mainstream schools for deaf children – without the right support – can only exaggerate the communication barrier that they face.

The tragic feel, dramatic but in no way inauthentic, is the perfect tone upon which to campaign for more sign language recognition and support in schools, with statistics displayed before the credits roll allowing the film to transcend the realms of fiction to illustrate a real-life problem that many deaf children and young people in the UK face today.

In a production well and truly worthy of its Oscar win, duo Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton perfectly illustrate the communication barrier some deaf young people face with raw, emotional and tragic honesty.

Advertisements

What ‘The Silent Child’s Oscar nomination means for the Deaf community | Liam O’Dell

It was a few days before the Oscar nominations were announced that I found out about The Silent Child. In a BBC News interview, six-year-old Maisie Sly talked about her hopes for a nomination for the movie, which also stars Hollyoaks actress Rachel Shenton.

Photo: Davidlohr Bueso/Flickr (changes have been made).

In a section of the film’s official website, the plot is described as centring around “a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.” Whilst I am yet to see The Silent Child itself, simply put, the film seems to be about the beauty of British Sign Language (BSL) – and that’s a wonderful thing.

With Shenton, who has worked closely with the National Deaf Children’s Society in the past, as the film’s writer, there’s no denying that the passion is present in the script and Chris Overton’s direction. As The Silent Child centres around family life as a deaf person in addition to BSL, it certainly shines a light onto Deaf culture, the Deaf community and our language.

As such, this is why an Oscar nomination is so important to not only the filmmakers, but every member of the subculture which The Silent Child represents. Even a nomination has the power to prompt film fans to seek out the movie, which means more people seeing a story centring around an important subject.

It has the potential to inspire more people to break down the language barrier and BSL, or at least encourage viewers to find out more about life as a deaf person. At the very least, a viewer’s misconceptions are challenged. At best, they see the power of connecting over a language, and seek to learn even basic sign language in order to communicate with any deaf people they know.

On top of all this is the representation aspect. Slowly but surely, more deaf people and deaf-related stories are gaining prominence in the media. From Nyle DiMarco’s success and Switched from Birth in the US, to the great work See Hear and the BSL Scotland Act have led to in the UK, deaf issues are getting the attention they rightfully deserve.

Also, let’s not forget that Maisie is profoundly deaf herself – a detail incredibly important in a film and TV industry which seems to cast non-disabled people, neurotypical people or those without the specific condition in the role. Members of the deaf community have called for deaf actors in deaf roles, and this Oscar nomination serves as recognition that such an initiative really improves the accuracy and quality of a film. The Silent Child‘s success is a small but massively positive step for representation – both in terms of the actual story and the issues it explores, and casting decisions.

Now comes the big ceremony in March, and I wish The Silent Child every success.

Joining the Organ Donor Register

I had come to believe some bizarre myths about organ donation over the years – rather shamefully. From my grave being exhumed to wondering if I had to ask my parents for permission, a lot of silly little things led to me putting the idea of donating my organs to one side to forget about… Until now.

img_8883
Registration is quick and easy and can be done online.

A recent Instagram post from my good friend Vicky from VVNightingale reminded me to join the organ donor register, and as of last night, I was on the list. As a 20-year-old man (nearly 21), the issue of parental permission was no longer relevant, and any other concern I had had been dispelled by hard-hitting cartoons and, quite frankly, basic common sense.

I mention cartoons because there’s one image (which I won’t share here due to the fact it would be copyright infringement, and I can’t be bothered to find it) showing a man underground cuddling his organs, whilst a sick man waits above ground by his grave. They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, and the message of this cartoon was simple: why keep hold of your organs when you’re dead, and someone else could obviously benefit from them? Sure, incisions may be made to remove said organs, but I’m dead, and I don’t need to worry about looking like a ’10/10′ when I’m a rotting corpse devoid of conscious thought.

So, upon seeing Vicky’s post, I didn’t hesitate in filling out a quick and easy online form and joining the register, and would encourage you to do the same! It’s hassle-free and you could very well save a life, which is a wonderful thing indeed.

You can find out more and sign up at organdonation.nhs.uk.

UKIP: Why it’s the beginning of the end for the single issue party which thrived on personality politics | Liam O’Dell

After UKIP’s National Executive Committee’s vote of no confidence in his leadership today, leader Henry Bolton was right: “the party is probably over”, and here’s why.

Photo: Derek Bennet/Flickr.

It was a bitter stalemate for a party which rose to success of the back of personality politics before it was ‘cool’. With a couple of resignations recently during Bolton’s time as UKIP leader, who knows if any more could follow should the former police officer manage to hold on to his position. No matter what happens now (whether Bolton resigns or members vote him out), a replacement is on the horizon in what would be an election for the fifth UKIP leader in the space of 18 months. When one considers June 2017’s snap election in amongst all these contests, could so-called ‘voter fatigue’ take its toll and finally bring an end to the UK Independence Party?

When Nigel Farage announced his resignation as leader after the 2016 EU referendum, numerous media outlets and commentators said such a decision had created a ‘power vacuum’. Now, three leaders later and it seems as though such a vacuum at the heart of the party is yet to be filled – for one good reason.

Whilst the media circus hasn’t bothered to explore the specific details of the in-fighting in UKIP (or, arguably, such details haven’t come to light), it seems as though the party longs for Farage’s return. Putting the politician’s popularity within the party aside, it was Nigel Farage that created the image of UKIP. Throughout the referendum campaign, journalists mentioned how leaving the European Union was an issue for which Farage had campaigned for many years. There’s a reason why US President Donald Trump has described the politician as ‘Mr Brexit’ – it’s because, even before the referendum was called, Brexit has been seen as ‘his baby’.

Since Farage’s departure as leader, the Conservatives – tasked with delivering Brexit – has soaked up the slogans and obsession that UKIP left out in the open during the power vacuum. The Tory claims about Labour MPs going against ‘the will of the people’ during the EU Withdrawal Bill debate is a type of whinging and complaining one would expect from UKIP, if they had becoming the strong ‘pro-Brexit voice’ the party has said they want to be.

However, with no MPs in Parliament, it’s a bit hard to be that voice when there’s no representation in the House of Commons, and the Conservatives are the only right-wing party pushing for a successful Brexit and have the responsibility and power to do so. Why should members support a ‘pro-Brexit voice’ outside of Westminster and add a further degree of separation when they can call on the Prime Minister (or, even their local constituency MP if they’re a Tory) to take direct action?

Granted, the fact that the UK still hasn’t left the EU yet may warrant such a voice in the debate, but the fact that UKIP are still the United Kingdom Independence Party following such a vote is baffling. An attempt to refresh the party with a new logo – despite it leading to some issues with the Premier League – may indeed have been a welcome move in terms of pushing the party forward post-Brexit, but it still grounded them to a single political issue.

In order to survive, UKIP must find a bold and likeable personality to fill the Farage-shaped hole in their party, and branch out from one single issue. Yet, with reports that the ex-leader may set up his own pro-Brexit party, the former seems unlikely. As for the latter, UKIP would have to go to the drawing board to think of national policies – besides Brexit – for which to campaign on. At a time of problematic leadership and in-fighting, it seems unlikely that the party would be able to agree on much as members’ patience runs thin.

With another leadership contest looming, this is the beginning of the end for UKIP.

Trump’s Fake News Awards show a perception of the press warped by his own sensationalism | Liam O’Dell

Wednesday evening in the United States. US President Donald Trump unveils the publications that are the winners of the Fake News Awards – in an event met with levels of interest ‘far greater than anyone could have anticipated’. Well, given the fact that the GOP site which hosted the award winners crashed shortly after Trump announced it was live, he’s not wrong there. The ‘importance’ of the awards, however, is subjective, and is primarily according to him – subjectivity being the crucial word at the heart of Trump’s relationship with ‘fake news’.

US President Donald Trump criticised publications for spreading. Photo: Gage Skidmore (Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode).

To begin with, Trump’s attitude towards the media is an intricate chain of perceptions and beliefs that stem from his own characteristics. With a strong aversion to criticism (as demonstrated by his pulling out of a UK visit last week) and an isolationist approach to foreign policy, the two combine to paint the press – in his eyes – as the enemy. In pursuit of the truth and the latest goings on in Washington D.C., journalists pierce the White House bubble in which Trump resides.

However, it’s not just the initial process of breaking the separation between the public and the President – through the media – which is of concern to Trump. As the awards show, it is also the coverage that follows which the businessman disagrees with, too.

Latching on to a phrase the majority of people didn’t know until the President’s usage of it, Donald was quick to label reports as ‘fake news’. By one of its many definitions – in this case, Collins English Dictionary – the term means: “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”. Yet, with the word still being quite ‘young’ and ambiguous (to some) in terms of its word usage, the question of what makes an article ‘fake news’ is often subjective unless it has been clearly disproven or it is a satirical article-level of obvious.

It’s a type of subjectivity which means that we can choose for ourselves what stories we want to believe, and who to listen to. Coupled together with the fact that we live in a society where the media is so heavily distrusted as ‘the arbiters of truth’, the rise of subscription news, echo chambers and freedom of choice over narratives, influential figures like Trump pose a very big threat in terms of ‘fake news’ and journalism.

It’s especially concerning when one considers the lens which Trump uses when consuming news and communicating on sites like Twitter. Known for his role in The Apprentice, the President has predominantly earned his fame through the reality TV machine. As a result of being in an industry packed full of sensationalism, he now views negative press as sensationalist ‘fake news’, and decides that certain words in his tweets warrant ALL CAPS like your typical right-wing newspaper.

“Despite some very corrupt and dishonest media coverage, there are many great reporters I respect and lots of GOOD NEWS for the American people to be proud of,” President Trump stressed on Twitter. It’s a tweet which subtly suggests once again that Americans should only support news if it has the ‘Trump seal of approval’. Such a statement does not excuse the unnecessary targeting of the mainstream media.

In addition to the sensationalist lens in which he views the media, it is clear that upon adopting the term ‘fake news’ to use for his own benefit, it was not a case of him knowing the original definition and deciding to twist it. As other outlets (like The Telegraph and The Guardian) have reported, most of the reports cited in Trump’s awards were corrected or led to much harsher consequences for the reporters in question post-publication.

In this regard, the President has confused fake news (that is, content deliberately designed to mislead) with the basic journalistic principle of announcing when one has made a mistake. Even if he fails to admit that, surely the fact that reporters are actively correcting themselves – and telling the public when their articles are erroneous – nullifies the claim that they’re being misleading and producing ‘fake news’? Crying out ‘fake news’ and saying that something’s misleading when the individuals themselves point out the ‘deceptive’ part of the story is like saying you’ve been tricked by a magician after they’ve revealed the secret.

We have always been surrounded by metanarratives or ‘belief structures’ such as religion and science, but we must now all accept that we have new versions of metanarrative which we can choose to follow – that being truth. Now, more than ever, we must consider whose ‘truth’ we believe.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Only You’ by Shift K3Y

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to some music from Shift K3Y. With hits like TouchI Know and Gone Missing, I was drawn in by the 24-year-old DJ’s (real name Lewis Jankel) unique blend of synth with a deeper, buzzing club sound. Now, after a couple of promotional singles last year and the release of his album NIT3 TALES in 2016, Jankel returns with Only You – a single which mashes together some old vibes with the new.

With Jankel taking to the mic once again underneath vibrant piano chords, listeners will be reminded of the producer’s older material, before the track is quick to descend into a pulsing beat complete with deeper synth sounds. A constant back-and-forth between two styles, Only You keeps things flowing before the aforementioned styles come together in the final drop: a fluttering mix of piano chords with dirty synth underneath.

Returning with a more mainstream sound, Shift K3Y kickstarts 2018 off with a groovy club hit.

A change long overdue…

The start of a new year often prompts people to seek change, but in my case – and the case for this blog, The Life of a Thinker – these are improvements I’ve considered for many months now, and finally want to put in place.

Since the early days of this site, music reviews (under the Music Monday or Musical Discovery title) have, as the former name suggests, come out on a Monday. However, with ‘New Music Friday’ becoming a thing and most artists and band releasing music in time for the weekend, my review a few days later felt a bit late. Whilst I don’t obsess over numbers, it would make much more sense if such things were timely, and so, for a while now, I’ve considered moving these posts to Friday.

Yet, such a move would affect my Friday Article pieces – my weekly opinion pieces often on politics or disability issues. Naturally, such a series with a name based on the day of the week on which they’re published can face some problems with the change. Although, upon having a look at other opinion pieces, most headlines tend to adopt the approach of ‘HeadlineAuthor Name‘ (The Guardian is a good example of this), and if I want to get my name out, then following a similar style may help with that. From now on, such pieces, complete with a new feel, will be published on Sundays – tying in with a lot with those end-of-the-week political shows you see on television.

So with music reviews on Fridays, and opinion pieces on Sunday, what about the spaces on Monday and Wednesday? At the moment, nothing particular is set in stone, but then again, Wednesdays have often been a day for me to publish something different (most often a book or theatre review) so if reviews become a regular thing for me, that may just be Wednesday’s ‘thing’. I’m still keen to have a slightly personal theme for one day of my schedule (something which was taken up by my A Thousand Words series last year), but I’m looking to try something a little more different and creative for that. We shall see what happens.

Other than that, thanks for reading the occasional blog post in 2017, and apologies for content being a bit infrequent. Whilst the start of a new university semester does offer a moment to get other tasks done, it isn’t long before the work builds up again in the run-up to the final sprint. Hopefully this will still allow me to blog nonetheless.

Either way, here’s to another busy year…