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.


Theatrical Reflections from a Rain-Painted Window

Rain pelts the windows of my Thameslink train as I type this. I’m on my way to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre, and if I was able to see both parts of the play before 7pm, then my review would be up today. As that isn’t happening, I thought it would be worth talking about my experiences at the cinema, and why I’m starting to prefer going to the theatre instead of seeing a film.

An obvious point to begin with is the accessibility of cinemas today. Whilst the one where I live has a few subtitled showings, living with a hearing family with their own schedules has meant seeing films without subtitles (not to mention the fact that most subtitled performances can be shown at inconvenient times of the day). From Marley and Me to Deadpool, I can still laugh and cry at what’s happening on screen, but I miss out on the plot that comes through dialogue. This is probably why it took me so long as a child to realise that TV shows were meant to be listened to as well as watched.

However, to blame it all on accessibility would be unreasonable of me. Another reason is the fact that I’ve always been a book nerd as opposed to a movie buff. Sitting in uncomfortable seats struggling to hear just didn’t appeal to me, compared to imagining the story for yourself from the comfort of your own home.

It’s become a question of time investment. Will it be worth spending two hours concentrating on this movie, trying to hear it? Will it demand my attention or will I get bored? It’s why I now have a certain criteria for a film to meet in full or in part before I decide to see it.

  1. It has received rave reviews.
  2. It contains an actor I like.
  3. It’s based off a book I like.
  4. The trailer looks good.

However, with a play, this criteria doesn’t apply, and the accessibility is better. Granted, there’s still no subtitles (unless you’re seeing a captioned performance) but the audio quality is better. Then there’s the sense of atmosphere in the theatre which can only be achieved in the cinema with a horror movie/thriller or by breaking the fourth wall.

But to revert back to the time investment point, I guess it’s something I’ve had for many years now when you consider some of the film classics I haven’t seen:

Titanic, E.T., Alien, Predator, The Shawshank Redemption, Love Actually, The Great Escape, Forrest Gump, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Die Hard, Casablanca, 2001: A Space Oddysey, The Back to the Future trilogy, Fight Club, The Terminator, The Social Network, Psycho,  Trainspotting, Speed, Saving Private Ryan, The Shining, Guardians of the Galaxy, Schindler’s List, Jaws, Goodfellas… 

This revelation often has my friends staring in disbelief and firing me shocked or angry looks, but film isn’t really my thing. Perhaps if I have some time to see more captioned performances, this may change, but for now, I’m looking forward to Harry Potter and seeing more plays in the future.

Thoughts on the Divergent Movie

So as my poem yesterday (click here) was about seeing a film before the book. On this occasion, it was Divergent.

Now I know reading books before films is a shameful, shameful thing to do, but the actual experience of film before book actually helped me to make a decision about reading the book.

Before I go into detail, the film overall was brilliant. It explored a variety of scenes that encapsulate different emotions. I left the cinema wanting to read the book, and a little bit blown away.

There’s always been the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” (I do), but should there also be a warning about “don’t judge a book by its film“?

If anything, when I was watching the adverts and movie trailers beforehand, as well as the actual movie, I couldn’t help but realise how cinematic the movie can be (obviously). But then I realised that books themselves have some cinematic elements to them, which would work great on film.

However, then there comes the fact that a movie offers a concise adaptation of the book, with some things missed out. This could have positive and negative impacts. The plus being that the potential of the book is emphasised in key action scenes, but the negative is that some important sub-plot scenes are missed, therefore I couldn’t possibly make a full judgement.

But nonetheless I will be reading the book. The movie was brilliant and so I shall be reading it. Now I know that I’ve spoiled the story for my imagination and for myself, but I did the same (accidentally) with Stardust and had no problems enjoying the book.


NaPoWriMo – Films Before Books?!

They always say don’t judge a book by its cover,
So I thought I would judge it by the film instead.
For I am unsure about reading the book,
And I want a definitive decision in my head.

But what I’ve come to realise,
Is that films emphasis plot points that are key.
So to some extent, I know,
What kind of book it is going to be.

Also don’t say that doing this,
Spoils my imagination.
Instead it gives me a better idea,
Of whether it’s worth reading – after much deliberation.


Stardust – Thoughts on Film Adaptations

So I’ve finally come round to finishing Stardust by Neil Gaiman (overall, a great book!). On this occasion, I watched the film before the book (I know, I’m sorry!) and absolutely loved it. It’s now become one of my favourite films. So of course, within time, I chose to read the book.

Immediately, I was pleased by how true to the book the film was for the first half of the book. It only got rid of a small amount of chapters – something always good in a film adaptation.

However, there were moments where small details had been changed (fair enough, for some, but others were just pointless changes) and near the end of the book, the film deviated from the film massively.

No spoilers, but the endings are different too! But surprisingly, both endings (film and book) were good endings to the story. So that got me thinking, do massive changes to a book’s finale in the film version make any difference?

For me, Stardust has now become a good book of mine, and still remains my favourite film regardless. What are your thoughts on film adaptations? Comment below!