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Maine Deaf Film Festival



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2004 press release

The Second Annual Maine Deaf Film Festival proudly returns to the University of Southern Maine Portland Campus on Saturday, May 22, 2004, and is honored to announce the arrival from Katmandu of two special guests, producer Krishna Prashad Shrestha and author Dev Raj Gurung, who have traveled over 7,200 miles to Maine specifically for this festival. Mr. Shrestha and Mr. Gurung, whose award winning film "Golden Rays" will be shown here for the first time in the U.S., will be speaking about the significance of their film and of their efforts to help deaf people in Nepal. In addition, the daylong festival will feature over 40 other international films from Deaf writers, directors, producers and actors.

This festival is a major cultural event for the Deaf community in the state, one of a growing number of Deaf Film Festivals around the world screening independent Deaf-made films. "This festival is a wonderful place for the Deaf community to come together to celebrate our culture and heritage," explains USM Professor and festival co-founder Roxanne Baker, "while also an important step to building bridges between the deaf and hearing communities. In addition to being entertaining, these films investigate inter-cultural issues from a unique perspective."

This festival will be the first and perhaps only opportunity Maine audiences will have to see many of these films. In addition to the Nepalese film, entries have come from as far as Australia, France, Germany, Israel, India, Japan, Norway, and the United States. "What we've done is look at what talented Deaf filmmakers are doing worldwide and bring the best of it to Maine," explains festival co-organizer Guillaume Chastel. All the films will be open captioned.

Among the reasons why this year's festival will be especially significant is that, for the first time the festival will be presenting the Maine Deaf Excellence in Film (or "ME DEF") Awards to selected films. Money raised by the festival will allow many of the films to become a permanent part of the USM Signed Language Research Lab video library. In addition, Prof. Baker has created a course complementing the festival entitled "Deaf Film, Theater, and Art in ASL" which she will be offering for the first time this summer.

Prof Baker explains why audiences will find the festival unique and appealing: "Since our primary expressive medium is language, which for the Deaf is distinctly visual and temporal, the Deaf approach to visual media, film, art, or storytelling in general is immediate and natural. Also, the Deaf point of view tends to give ironic and thought-provoking twists to ordinary experiences."

Another USM professor and festival co-founder, Brenda Schertz, explains how the festival can help the deaf and hearing communities explore common themes and issues. "These films present audiences with insight into Deaf perspectives on society and life. The audience will then be able to explore how these differ among deaf and hearing artists, including the different techniques these filmmakers use in their work. Most importantly, these films will bring images of the real deaf experience to bear against the stereotypes about the deaf that exist in traditional Hollywood treatments."

David Crespo, a festival organizer who is hearing but works with the deaf, comments on how this festival has helped him address these stereotypes. "I often get interesting questions when I tell people I am working on this project, like ?Won?t this just be a bunch of silent films? How will we follow and understand? Will there be music? Will there be interpreters during the movies? Isn?t ASL a universal language?? Telling people about the festival gives me a chance to address questions like these. The worst misconception out there is that deafness is perceived as a ?handicap?. These films are here to show that nothing could be farther from the truth."

This year's festival is an integrated effort of deaf and hearing volunteers drawn from university faculty, students, and friends of the Deaf community. The work was done by a team of festival organizers each working in different areas. The annual festival sponsors include the University's Linguistics Department and USM ASL Club, as well as special financial support from the USM Board of Student Organizations, and a wide array of Deaf community organizations and Maine businesses. In addition, a variety of the evening's films are made available by special arrangement with the prominent Chicago Institute of Moving Images, which has produced Deaf Film Festivals throughout the U.S..

The festival is being held in two parts, from 1-5 p.m. to 6-10 p.m. on May 22, at the USM Science Building on Falmouth Street on the USM Campus. A map, full schedule, and further information can be found on the web at deaffilmfest.tripod.com. Tickets are $10 per session, with a $15 combined ticket available if purchased by May 20. Tickets for students, senior citizens, and children ages 6-17 are $7 per session, with and advance combined tickets of $12. Tickets can be purchased in person at the USM Woodbury Campus Center "Student Involvement Desk" (on Bedford St.) or at the Maine Center on Deafness, 68 Bishop St., 797-7656, 1(800)639-3884 (outside Portland) (voice or TTY). Tickets can also be purchased by mail at DFF c/o ASL Lab 68 High St, Portland, ME 04102. Checks should be made payable to "ASL Club Deaf Film Festival". Requests for information on volunteering, sponsorship, and other topics can be emailed to
deaffilmfest@yahoo.com.

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