2021 has been a huge year for deaf representation in films, in what we hope is a step towards normalising deafness and disabilities in mainstream media. We are excited to see various films this year featuring deaf actors, raising deaf awareness in hearing communities, and creating idols for the young deaf generation.
A Quiet Place 2
In the last month, the Quiet Place sequel gained recognition for casting deaf actress Millicent Simmonds as the deaf lead. The film follows on from the first, with Simmonds’ character and her family travelling to safety without making any noise, using American Sign Language (ASL) as their communication method to stay silent. The leading actress was honoured to have such a significant role, not just in the film, but for her community. She told Variety that disability should not come into question when hiring in the film industry, and educating others is key.
Deaf people were excited to see a deaf lead in a Hollywood movie, although backlash came following the lack of screenings in the UK with captions.
Representation is essential for progression but if this is not reflected through the whole process then deaf people are not being truly considered. Riz Ahmed, The Sound of Metal actor, commented on this during a recent interview with Evelyn Glennie; “Why aren’t more films in cinemas subtitled? It’s a pretty simple thing… these things are easily overlooked with hearing privilege.”
Hitting cinemas later this year, Marvel film, Eternals will feature a black deaf actress in a leading role. The world’s first deaf superhero will undoubtedly be an inspiration for deaf people around the world. In particular, deaf young people rarely see themselves represented in media, creating a gap for role models that reflect their identity.
Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff told Movie Web how ecstatic she was to represent her community in the comic book movie genre and to further normalise these roles going to deaf people. Director Chloé Zhao has made inclusivity an essential element to the production and cast, creating life changing opportunities to minorities.
The Sound of Metal
The Sound of Metal was released earlier this year, starring Riz Ahmed. The film follows the journey of a drummer who starts to lose his hearing and is suddenly immersed into the deaf community. The character has to come to terms with his deafness; something that many of the team and Deaf Action can relate to.
Although this film shed light on some very important subject matters, many felt that a deaf actor should have been given this role to make the portrayal more authentic for those that have went through similar experiences. Co-actor Paul Raci, is a CODA, and an active member in the deaf community. He told Variety that he; “strives to break down the misconceptions of the deaf community”
Dame Evelyn Glennie recently interviewed Riz Ahmed on her podcast about the film, covering how Riz felt immersing himself into the deaf world. Riz hoped that the audience would see themselves in the character and relate to the pain the main character endured. He highlighted his experience during filming, saying; “listening and communicating were taught to me in the most fundamental and profound way, by the deaf community.”
Regardless of the differing views, many people felt like they saw their own story of hearing loss be shared with millions, creating much needed awareness around hearing loss.
The future of inclusion
When casting for disabled roles, real disabled people are often disregarded. This is the same with deaf roles, where hearing people are more commonly cast, creating a large disadvantage for deaf actors trying to break through into the film industry. This was seen recently when Stephen King hired hearing actor Nick Andros for a deaf character in his new TV series The Stand.
In the UK alone, there are estimated to be over 10 million deaf people, so it’s crucial that our communities are represented and cast fairly. Deaf actors should be given the same opportunities as hearing actors, breaking down stigmas around disabilities.
We’re only just getting started!
We can’t wait to see what’s next for deaf people in cinema, and we’re glad to see increasing discussions around deaf awareness, accessible screenings and deaf casting. It just goes to show, there are no limits to what deaf people can achieve!
Thanks to Dame Evelyn Glennie for allowing us to feature her podcast ‘The Evelyn Glennie Podcast’. Want to watch or listen to the episode? Visit https://www.evelyn.co.uk/theevelynglenniepodcast/
“The Sound of Metal”. Image courtesy and copyright of Amazon Studios.