Marlee Matlin Speaks Out: Help Deaf Parents Go to the Movies With Their Kids!

from famecrawler:
Marlee Matlin Speaks Out: Help Deaf Parents Go to the Movies With Their Kids!
Posted by shanaaborn on June 1st, 2012 at 2:28 pm
Marlee Matlin Speaks Out: Help Deaf Parents Go to the Movies With Their Kids!

Marlee Matlin is an advocate for issues affecting families who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

This summer, most of us parents will be answering our kids’ cries of “We’re boooooorredd!” by checking the theater listings for screenings of the latest blockbuster films. It may be pricey to go to the movies these days, but it’s still a good way to beat the heat and keep the young ones entertained for a couple of hours.

But for Marlee Matlin, it’s not quite that simple. She, along with the 35 million other Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, often have trouble finding a film they can enjoy along with their families.

As she writes today in the Chicago Sun-Times, theaters showing captioned versions of movies may be located miles from home. “Even more puzzling, the screening times don’t make sense: 11:00 AM, 10:45 PM,” she says. “Somehow, popcorn before lunchtime doesn’t taste as good, and 10:45 PM for this mom and four kids is out of the question.” (Her children are not hearing-impaired.)

What’s even more infuriating is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Sony and Regal Cinemas have developed special wi-fi glasses that show captions within the lenses when used at movies with digital formats. “But Sony is only making 500 pairs a month,” Marlee explains. “At that rate, I might be able to see Men in Black 24 when it comes out in 2019.”

As celebrity spokesperson for the National Association for the Deaf, Marlee frequently helps raise awareness of issues and inequities affecting people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The picture here, for instance, was taken this spring, when she traveled to Capitol Hill to promote the push to get phone companies to provide “text to 911? service, which would allow deaf users to send text messages to emergency services.

Maybe we can help spread the word and urge studios and theater chains to make captioned screenings and caption glasses more widely available to the millions of families who need them. “[N]ot only would it be the right thing to do,” Marlee says, “it would mean a lot of tickets and $5 popcorn they could be selling.”

Brava, Marlee!

Beyond Silence (Jenseits der Stille)

First released in Germany as Jenseits Der Stille, Beyond Silence is the story of Lara, a hearing child of deaf parents Martin and Kai. (The parents converse in German Sign Language, but since the actors who play them are American and French, I have it on good authority that their signing is accented.)

Frequently called upon to serve as sign language interpreter for her parents, young Lara translates meetings, parent-teacher conferences, soap operas, and phone calls for them (though they have a TTY, they are only seen using it once). It is not a good idea to have a child acting in this capacity, though, as Lara avoids translating anything that will get her in trouble or cause a conflict. Martin and Kai realize they’re being fooled, but only bemoan the lack of professional interpreters.

Beyond Silence, at the bank

Lara translates for her parents at a bank, but refuses to ask for early withdrawal of their money.

Furthermore, Martin constantly asks what things–flags, snow, the sunset–sound like, and Lara gamely tries to describe them in terms he can understand. “What would we do without you and your ears?” he asks Lara affectionately.

Lara insists that her mother Kai learn to ride a bicycle, telling her “Every real mother can ride a bike.” Despite inner ear balance problems, Kai practices in a meadow.

In a bit of foreshadowing, Kai narrowly avoids danger while learning to ride a bicycle.

Martin and his sister Clarissa have a strained relationship stemming from a childhood incident where Martin began laughing hysterically during one of her clarinet recitals. Clarissa resents Martin for the way he was allowed to misbehave without consequence, not realizing young Martin acted out of frustration at his inability to communicate with anyone in his family. His own parents were advised not to learn or teach him sign, as the prevailing wisdom of the times was that it would make them less likely to read lips or learn speech.

Martin embarrasses his sister at her clarinet recital, and is forcibly removed by their father.

Though early in the movie we see Martin fixing and adjusting a radio for Lara to listen to, when Clarissa gives Lara a coveted clarinet he worries that he’ll lose her affections and sours on the idea of having music in the house. From then on, any time she turns the radio on or tries to practice her clarinet, he orders that the noise be stopped. This only furthers Lara’s attachment to Clarissa, and once Lara is older Clarissa invites her to stay with her in Berlin so she can practice for an audition at a music conservatory. Martin is furious, but the family overrules him.

While in Berlin, Lara happens to see a man and a young girl conversing in sign at the market, and follows them to strike up a conversation. She initially assumes she’s seeing a girl much like herself, but discovers the little girl is deaf while the hunky guy is her elocution teacher. Like Lara, Tom is a hearing child of deaf parents; though he seems a bit better adjusted than she. He talks about Gallaudet with reverence, saying that “The Americans recognize [sign] as a language. They’re at least 20 years ahead of us.”

Tom suggests Lara become a teacher for the deaf as well, but Lara happens to attend a concert and falls in love with klezmer music. Her future career decided, she prepares to audition for a conservatory. Her relationship with Tom blooms while her relationship with Martin continues to deteriorate. But a sudden death in the family forces a confrontation, and the strength and stability Lara has begun to learn from Tom leads her to understand her father better. They reconcile as they talk across the auditorium while she auditions, Martin saying “I may not be able to hear it, but I’ll try to “understand” it.” Perhaps he’ll always rely on Lara and sister Marie to interface with the hearing, but at last the family has realized the folly of trying to force their children into their respective worlds.