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Maine Deaf Film Festival

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2003 Press Release

This year's press release coming soon...this is last year's.

May 17, 2003
For Immediate Release

The University of Southern Maine Linguistics Department and the American Sign Language Club of Maine are proud to present the First Annual Maine Deaf Film and Video Festival, to be held on Friday night, May 30th, and Saturday, May 31st, at Luther Bonney Auditorium on Portlands USM Campus. It features two days of film and video covering a diversity of styles and perspectives, including moderated discussions by Deaf filmmakers, educators, and members of the Deaf community. Though focused on Deaf experience, this festival is also geared for the wider community; it aims to raise awareness of the richness and diversity of the Deaf perspective, and show how the presentation of the Deaf in visual media has become more authentic as the Deaf themselves have begun taking their place in front of and behind the camera.

Overall, the 13 films will be exhibited, in styles ranging from documentary to animation, fantasy, expressionist, drama, comedy, romance, experimental, and dance. Each of these genres offers distinct opportunities for the Deaf artists who made them to present original and authentic statements about the Deaf experience.

The festival crosses cultural barriers by importing several fascinating and unique foreign films featuring deaf protagonists, the most famous being the stylish feature film Bangkok Dangerous, a haunting portrayal of a deaf hit man in the Thai underworld, written and directed by the Pang Brothers. The taut psychological thriller After Image, directed by Bob Manganelli, follows a crime photographer and a deaf psychic (portrayed by deaf actress Terrylene) as they are hunted by a ruthless killer.
Several independent international Deaf filmmakers also share their contributions, including French director and actor Pierre-Louis Levacher, who has created a beautiful parable in his The Keys to the Stars.

The portrayal of the deaf in movies has come a long way from the early days of Hollywood; cultural and technological changes have allowed the Deaf to tell their own story in their own language and in their own way. As a result, what has come to be called the New Deaf Cinema has emerged. In many of these films the Deaf character is an individual who finds a novel way of surpassing a societal role or situation that has failed to include his or her experience.
A fantastical approach to this theme is taken by German filmmaker Jörg Fockele who mirrors the Peter Pan story his inspiring expressionist film about Deaf history, Alice and the Aurifactor. The American hand-animated dream-tale To Have/To Find by artist Susan Dupor also explores escape and fantasy through a young deaf girls dreams. On My Own, directed by Pearl Swan Youth and Kim Buwon, and starring Mainer Roxanne Baker, is a tale of two young women, one deaf and one hearing, whose frienship is challenged by cultural conflicts. Likewise, two short dramatic films by Deaf director Dawn Schwersky Schakett, He Says/She Signs and Look At me So I Can Hear You, also focus on the common Deaf experience of transcending barriers, the first in relationships, the second in family and school.

Ms. Shackett is one of two filmmakers who will be at the festival to discuss her films. We will also proud to be showing the premier of From Eyes to Hands, a Maine-made documentary on the life of well-known itinerant portrait artist John Brewster. Director Jessica Birelli, Producer Alyssa Gagnon, and ASL Consultant Bill Nye will be present for the discussion of this film.

The unique Deaf perspective has shaped cinematic culture more than by highlighting cultural challenges. Due to the visual structure of their language, the Deaf have a special relationship to visual communication. How does the absence of a sound track that is a regular part of their lives heighten their visual sensitivity, the form of their storytelling, or the particular message they convey? Does their visual language interact with the usual cinematic language of mise-en-scene, editing, point of view, and so forth in a way that creates a distinctive cinematic style?

An excellent twist on these questions is given by the movie The Golden Legacy, the effort of an almost exclusively Deaf cast, crew, and director. The Golden Legacy is a full length feature film whose connection to Deafness is not that it is about the Deaf point of view (rather it is a mystery adventure about sunken treasure), but that it is told centered from inside the Deaf point of view, where no explanation of itself is needed. By removing itself dramatically from hearing culture it is a film that allows the viewer to understand deaf culture from within in a more direct fashion.

Another angle, the Deaf relationship to music and dance, is explored in two of the films featured in the festival. One, The Ride, directed by John Flanders, is an unusual Deaf road movie about a disenchanted musician whose muse is influence by a Deaf hitchhiker. In Konigskinder, experimental German filmmaker Lutz Gregor tells another tale of a friendship, between a deaf boy and a dancer.

Finally, another key aspect of Deaf experience is that of Community. But even the Deaf Community is a Community of Communities, as reflected by the passionately made documentary film Touching Lives, which portrays the unique challenges facing and courage shown by the deaf-blind. The film is written and produced by Susan Hajjar and Myles Gordon.

By exploring these and other themes, the Maine Deaf Film and Video Festival is a significant and important community event for the Deaf in Maine. Deaf organizations and friends of the Deaf who have provided financial support for this event include The USM Signed Language Research Library, The Maine Recreation Associaton of the Deaf, the ASL Club of Maine, The Maine Center on Deafness, Alpha One, J. Dornan Lucas, Certified Interpreting Associates, and Judy George as well as in-kind contributions from the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and the Maine Department of Behavioral Services. Furthermore, kicking off the event will be an Opening Reception made possible by the kind generosity and support of the following businesses: Cakes Extraordinaire, Corsettis, Tuccis, the Village Café, ONaturals, Breaking New Grounds, Micuccis Market, and Hannafords.

Friday evenings Reception begins at 6 PM, after which films and discussion will begin at 7 PM. Saturdays films will begin at 1 PM and continue until evening, with an hour break at 5 PM. Both evenings end at 10:30 PM.

Tickets can be purchased in person or by mail from the USM Linguistics Lab at 68 High Street, 3rd floor, in Portland, which is open 9:30 am to 4:30 PM. Friday or Saturday advance tickets are $10 ($12 at the door); for seniors and children ages 6-16 tickets are $5. For more information about tickets, scheduling, volunteering, or other questions, please call 780-5957 or email or check out our website

Most of the films shown are suitable for children, especially on Friday; however, parents are advised to use discretion and call or consult our schedule for film ratings. Films will be interpreted for both hearing and deaf audiences as appropriate.

Maine Deaf Film and Video Festival
68 High Street
Portland, Maine 04101
(207) 780-5957 Voice
(207) 780-5933 TTY

Contact Person: Mike Wing (207) 780-5957 voice 780-5933 TTY