One question permeated my mind as I watched PBS's Through Deaf Eyes: why hadn't I learned this before?
I could not understand why this vital part of American culture was neglected throughout all my years of history classes. Why were Deaf American stories so easily silenced in the pages of history textbooks? Why are the disability acts so often ignored in the context of everyday political conversations? All these questions were stacking up and left me inspired yet saddened. I was inspired because a documentary had given me an informative and engaging insight into Deaf American culture. I was saddened because I felt like I had been cheated from understanding Deaf culture for so long and that even though this documentary was excellent, I knew that most of "hearing America" probably wasn't watching and rejoicing along with me. But this is the case with many of the documentaries I watch on PBS, even Oscar winning documentaries are not hot topics like they should be. When was the last time a PBS documentary was the thing to talk about at work on Monday? But that's another story.
One of my hobbies is learning about different cultures, so I'm naturally drawn to the kind of programming that gives me a glimpse into the lives of others. Through Deaf Eyes does a splendid job of doing just that. The documentary was flavored with interviews, short films from deaf filmmakers, archive video and photos of important moments in Deaf American history and other examples of what it was like for deaf people growing up before and after the Civil Rights Movement. One of the highlights was when deaf college students rallied together at Gallaudet University to protest against the school for choosing a hearing woman as the president over the two other deaf candidates. It was amazing to see how happy the students were when the media and the rest of the country came to their aid and sided with them in their battle. It's like you could feel this collectively sigh from the Deaf community that whispered "You care." It was a beautiful thing.
Then there was a really interesting interview with deaf actress Marlee Matlin who won an Oscar for best actress in Children of a Lesser God. It's the ground-breaking story about a deaf woman and a hearing man falling in love. This was a big moment for the Deaf community, in the Halle Berry and Denzel Washington winning an Oscar sense. And for me, as a filmmaker and movie buff, I must admit to being ashamed about being unfamiliar with this movie and having no idea of its significance until watching Through Deaf Eyes. But the good part is that it landed a spot on my must-see movie list.
I could go on gushing about how great this documentary is but for your sake, I'll leave you with this, please watch this film. Check out PBS.org to find when a re-run airs or buy the film and watch it with a couple of friends. Through Deaf Eyes is only a scratch on the surface about the Deaf community, so hopefully you will do a little digging and learn some more. While you're at it check out these cool blogs: A Deaf Mom Shares Her World, Deaf in the City, Somewhat Silent, Discussing Over Coffee, Keylime Pie Lovers Unite and Deaf Blogs.