Saturday, May 27, 2006

Movie review - Sound and Fury

I watched this movie which was released in 2000 on the Independent Film Channel and I can't get it off my mind. It is a documentary about the hot issue (among the deaf community) of cochlear implants. If you are not familiar with this procedure, it is a device which is implanted in near the auditory nerve and connected to a receiver under the skin. An appliance is used like a hearing aid, but instead of simply amplifying the sound and sending it through the ear canal, the sounds are processed by a small computer and sent into the cochlear implant to be "heard" by the auditory nerve directly. This can restore a great measure of hearing to certain deaf people.

So the hot topic is that now, many children who are born deaf to hearing parents are being given these implants while they are infants so that they have the greatest opportunity to learn spoken language. These kids can hear when the device is on, and often do not learn sign language or perceive of themselves as deaf. And this is shaking the deaf community and causing fear that deaf culture itself is threatened and will become obsolete.

The documentary follows the incredibly complex and interesting family dynamics of two related families who are considering cochlear implants for their children. The fathers of each family are brothers themselves. One of them is deaf, his wife is deaf and so are his three children. And now his 5 year old daughter is saying that she wants to have a cochlear implant so that she can hear the world around her and better communicate with her hearing friends. The other father is hearing but signs (due to his brother being deaf). His wife is also hearing, but her parents are deaf. Her first language was sign language and she spent years in speech therapy so that she could overcome the speech patterns that she learned from her parents. They now have twin sons, one of whom is deaf and they are considering getting him a cochlear implant as soon as possible.

What ensues as the documentary follows this extended family is chaos as everyone has an opinion about the "right" thing to do for the kids. One set of grandparents, (hearing) are in favor. The other set is against (deaf). At the heart of everyone's opinion are deep-seated emotions about what it means to be deaf. The children's identity and culture is at stake. It is a fascinating look at an emotional issue and at the end, I want to know what happened to each one down the road. It has been six years since this movie was made and decisions were reached about whether to subject their kids to surgery or not. Fortunately, I found out by looking at the movie's website that they have just produced an update film. It is only 29 minutes, but I am dying to see it. At this point, you can only order it from the filmmakers.


mom said...

Tracy's comments on this movie has made me want to see it. I hope that the channel will show it again in the near future. I do know if she gets the sequel, I will get to see that one.
Her Mom

lm1 said...

i concur my dear .