5 Films to Commemorate International Day of Sign Languages

On September 23, the International Day of Sign Languages is celebrated, for this reason we recommend several films that raise awareness about the role of this communicative system and deaf communities.

Frame from the movie 'CODA'

Photo: YT-DiamondFilms

LatinAmerican Post | Joshua Radesca

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Leer en español: 5 películas para conmemorar el día internacional del lenguaje de señas

Since 2018, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed September 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages. This is an initiative that seeks to raise awareness about the importance of this communication system as a means of exchange and integration for deaf people, both with other people with hearing problems, and with hearing individuals. On the occasion of the commemoration of this day,  we will recommend five films released in recent years in which there is a significant presence of sign language or reflect on deafness.

“CODA” (2021)

Awarded the best film at the 2022 Oscars, “CODA” is a production that has gained a lot of international attention since its premiere. It is an adaptation of the French film "The Bélier Family" . An outstanding aspect is that a large part of its cast is made up of deaf people.

As for the story, “CODA” tells the life of Ruby, a 17-year-old teenager who is part of a family whose parents and older brother are deaf. This young woman is the only listener in her home (what is known as CODA for the acronym for Child Of Deaf Adults), which makes her an essential support for her relatives. Since from a very young age, she serves as a means of communication between her family and the community.

Ruby's life is busy; every day, from very early, she helps on his family's fishing boat and as an interpreter when negotiating the sale of what is caught. Also, she has the obligations of her senior year of high school. After graduation, she has no expectations beyond continuing to work with her father and help her family in whatever they need.

However, driven by her love of music, she joins the school choir. There, a teacher discovers her great potential for singing and proposes to prepare her to apply for a scholarship at a prestigious university. Although the idea excites her, it also creates a dilemma for Ruby, since getting the scholarship and aiming to fulfill her dream would mean alienating those who require her.

Coda is a film that introduces us to the dynamics of a family made up of deaf people, showing how they function in private and how they feel about a community that has few spaces for inclusion.

“Sound of Metal” (2019)

This is a film with an intense narrative. It introduces us to the story of Ruben Stone, a drummer who forms a metal duo with his girlfriend Lou, and who are on tour in the United States. In the middle of this tour, the musician begins to lose his hearing suddenly and rapidly, which plunges him into a spiral of anguish.

Ruben is a recovered addict, so his girlfriend, worried that the shock of sudden deafness will drive him back to drugs. For that reason, she convinces him to join a rural shelter for deaf addicts. In this, the musician comes into contact with a community whose intention is to serve as a guide in the process of facing and accepting their condition. That will not be easy.

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“A Quiet Place” (2018)

This is a title that deserves a special mention on this list. "A Quiet Place" is a film in which the absence of dialogue predominates, since throughout it the characters communicate mainly using sign language. The film places us in a dystopian future, in which society has been decimated by the attack of violent creatures, blind, but hypersensitive to sound. In this sense, to survive it is necessary to follow the rule of stay in silence. 

This is a horror title dominated by suspense and tension. In the film we follow the Abbott family, made up of a pregnant mother, a father and several children. They communicate with each other using sign language, which they dominate because one of the daughters is hearing and speech impaired.

“A Silent Voice” (2016)

Japanese animated film that tells the story of Shouko Nishimiya and Shouya Ishida. The first is a deaf girl who, upon joining a new school, begins to suffer harassment from her classmates, especially Shouya. Faced with the constant siege, the young woman changes institutions. As the years go by, Shouya will seek to make amends and form a friendship with the girl he harassed. This will be based on the idea of accepting ourselves.

“The Belier Family” (2014)

If you liked CODA, it's quite helpful for you to watch the award-winning French movie “The Bélier Family”. As we mentioned before, the North American adaptation is based on this. Although the story is similar, there are several differences in both productions. Therefore, the visualization of each one offers different experiences.

It can be noted that at the cinematographic level, issues such as deafness can be treated from different genres and perspectives. The mentioned titles raise awareness about what a hearing deficiency means, as well as the ways in which deaf people must function in today's society.

International Day of Sign Languages is an excellent opportunity to watch these films and reflect on the importance of further spreading this language.