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2004 1-5 PM
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2003 May 30
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2003 Press

Introduction to the Day's Films 2004

Entries have come from Australia, France, Germany, Israel, India, Japan, Norway, and the United States. The films are presented with open captioning for hearing and deaf audiences.

USM professors Guillaume Chastel and Roxanne Baker have led the effort to select the films. Professor Chastel, who grew up in Aix, France, was especially excited at opportunity of bringing several special films from his home country to the festival lineup. "We chose films that reflect both a diversity in theme and style, but also several films by the same or related artists in order to provide comparisons," he reveals.

For example, two short films, The Bird and The Artist, by versatile French actor, screenwriter, director, and producer Levant Beskardes will be featured. At the same time, Beskardes narrates with elegant precision in Brigitte Lemaine's graceful tribute to deaf photographer Inoue de Koji, Look At Me I Am Looking At You. This not-to-be-missed film is a philosophic and profound appeal for inter-cultural understanding and respect from great artists. Beskardes also has a part in French deaf film luminary Pierre-Louis Levacher's blood-curdling yet beautiful horror film Cold Blood. Levacher's fairytale A Key to the Stars was a big hit during last year?s festival, and is re-shown this year.

The Nepalese film Golden Rays, whose producer, Krishna Prasad Shrestha, and screenwriter, Dev Raj Gurung, will be attending the festival, recently won a special award at the Brussels International Festival of Independent Film for "audiovisual action in favor of the Deaf", and was recently screened at the 7th International Deaf Film Festival in Wolverhampton, England. Mr. Shrestha explains his motivation in producing the film. "I did not produce this film to make a profit. I produced it on behalf of the Nepalese deaf, and to let deaf people in the other countries know about the status of the deaf in Nepal. It is true event-based short story using Nepali sign language. It is totally silent; we did not use any sound effects or background music even in out titles. We use English subtitles for hearing people. Most of the characters of this film are deaf and non-actors. That main theme of this film 'Humanity does not come from the speech, it comes through the heart like golden rays.'"

From the U.S., the festival is proud to show two recent films featuring deaf legend Bernard Bragg, Two Worlds Apart and A World Of Our Own. The latter, made with the well-known comedic actor and impressionist John Maucere, is a parody of soap operas and of deaf culture, centered on a movie studio executive whose long lost son who wants to gain control of his father's movie studio. Mr. Bragg helped found the Tony Award-winning National Theatre of the Deaf in the late 1960's, out of which sprang an entire generation of deaf performers. Audiences may also remember him from his Los Angeles television series "The Quiet Man" as well as from CBS's "A Child's Christmas in Wales" and the made-for-TV movie, "And Your Name Is Jonah." Mr. Maucere in known for his deaf "Tonight Show" parody, the John "Leno" Maucere show.

Parodies, spoofs, satires and comedies abound on the evening's marquee. "This is less for entertainment purposes," explains Prof. Baker, "than as a result of the fact that, like many other minorities, Deaf Culture resorts to humor as a way to defuse and cope with its difference." For example, the prize-winning British spoof Reservoir Wolves, by director Ramoon Wolf, is a stylish Tarantino send-up proving that "signing whilst wielding a gun is entirely feasible - when under pressure." The prolific Arthur Kuhn of Eyeth studios has created several short comedies with an edge, including ASL Inc. a biting satire on things "p.c." that contains a message about the aspirations of deaf people and their struggle for success and empowerment and Destination: Eyeth, a hilarious black-and-white farce in the Red Green/Coyote/Laurel and Hardy tradition. Philipe Le Goff is an offbeat French director with a wicked sense of humor, who also hosts one of the most comprehensive websites on deaf cinema,
www.sourds.net; we present several of his "video vignettes" as trailers between our other films, including his spin-off version of Dracula.

Australian director Sofya Gollan also specializes in humor of a darker sort. Not the Usual Victim is an impressive, intelligent black comedy built around the unexpected. The dark and disturbing film-noir ends with a cruel twist of fate, the tables being turned against a kidnapper whose victim's disadvantage becomes her advantage. On the other hand, Japanese Director Robert Hodgkin uses everyday situations as his inspiration. Blue Gush is about a man and a woman who get into trouble simply walking down the street. One Way Street recounts the adventure of a fun-loving deaf man who has a bittersweet encounter with a pretty girl after finding her telephone card.

Like that one, many of the films touch on the special circumstances around romantic or other relationships between deaf and hearing people. For example, Hear No Evil (by Amanda Mundin) is a hilarious comedy of errors about a bumbling electrician who courts a Deaf client for all the wrong reasons. It features some interesting visual effects and some terrible lounge singing. The actors in Louis Neething's Dis?ABLE are full of romantic energy. In it, something unusual but enlightening happens at a deaf party when friends ask, "Given the chance to hear again, would you?" British director Sam Dore explores the dating scene in Chronic Embarrassment, about three club hopping Bristol deaf "mates" who talk straight on interactions they have with the hearing world. The subtle message behind the film, about honest communication between people, is deftly brought home by the wry twist at the end. Interestingly, you will see a supporting actor appear in both of these films by different directors. David O'Day's student film Interpretation (USA) explores inter-cultural issues through the relationship of a deaf photographer and her hearing friend.

Many films explore deaf couples or relationships as any other. Our third Hodgkin film, Chance For Love, is an intimate, dramatic, and realistic portrait of a Deaf couple struggling to save their marriage. It recently won Best Short Film at the Idyllwild Film Festival. Skye, a much-loved and musical film with a quintessential psychedelic 70's style, is about a sensitive young woman unexpectedly touched by a mysterious hipster at a 70?s party. It also features an outrageous Afro and some very funky dancing and music.

Nonetheless, despite the comedic approach of some, other deaf filmmakers have approached their material with a straight face. For example, French director Emmanuel Robert-Espalieu has created a compelling anti-war film Le Cri out of a simple plot. The story concerns two deaf enemy combatants in opposing trenches during a lull in the First World War who recognize each other and make the effort to communicate while the threat of war resurfaces. Interestingly, it also features hearing actor Bernard Campan, a well-known star of mainstream French cinema. Israeli documentary God Kill Her records the courageous stories of deaf women living in Israel while L.A Club for the Deaf by James DeBee is an Emmy-award winning documentary chronicling the development of a renowned Deaf Organization.

A selection of films that will appeal to young people is also included in the afternoon session. Chlorine Dreams from Sophya Gollan is a drama of a young girl who gets in trouble when she makes a new imaginary friend. Irish director Stephen Benedict spins a tale of teen angst in his premiere The Escape; it won the Claire Lynch Award for best new film by an Irish director at the Cork Film Festival in 2001. Cutting the Edge of a Free Bird by American director Ann Bryan, is about a Deaf and Lesbian high schooler struggling to make life choices while facing pressure from family and friends. Meanwhile, a nine year-old deaf boy sees his father come out of the sea with a new hearing aid in the British Adu Ivumun (When I heard) from directors M. Hilmy and Andy Jones. To Have/To Find is a beautifully drawn animated short by director Susan Dupor about a young deaf girl's escape into an idyllic dream world. In Alice and the Aurifactor Alice confronts the evil sorcerer bent on domination; who will win? German director Jorg Fockele's expressionist style makes for a powerful and captivating film which echoes and teaches about Deaf history.

In addition to the above, we present three art films from award winning director Cornelis Mehlum. No Way Out examines the choice between two different worlds and offers reflections on the influence of modern technology. Kjoleu concerns a woman's fantasy lover. Beginning of a New Generation portrays the world before 2001.

Lastly, it should be noted that the line-up of films described about is tentative and subject to change. More up-to-date information can be found at the festival website, http://deaffilmfest.tripod.com.

For more information contact:
David Crespo
Tel: 207-761-0362 (voice)
Email:
deaffilmfest@yahoo.com
Roxanne Baker
Tel: 207-799-1394 (TTY/Relay)