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Film Offers Insight Into Deaf Culture

March 19, 2007

By KATHY BLUMENSTOCK
The Washington Post

FILE PHOTO

Actress Marlee Matlin offers her thoughts in the documentary “Through Deaf Eyes.”

A soundless world with a unique culture is the focus of Larry Hott’s new documentary.

But Hott cautions against describing the film using the word “deafness,” which is a medical condition, he said. “This is not about a medical condition but about a complicated and important part of American history.”

“Through Deaf Eyes” covers the last 200 years of deaf culture and education and features personal stories that are at turns emotional and humorous. With archival photos and footage, the show looks at “cures” for deafness, including religious faith healing and diving airplane rides, as well as technology that has aided the deaf. The program examines the ideas of Alexander Graham Bell, who argued in the early 1900s against the use of sign language.

Interviews with actors Marlee Matlin and Bernard Bragg are included, along with six short films produced by deaf filmmakers, which appear between the longer segments.

The two-hour documentary also traces the rise of Washington-based Gallaudet University, the nation’s first college for the deaf with a signing environment. I. King Jordan, Gallaudet’s first deaf president, now retired, is among those interviewed.

“We want people to leave the film with a beginning understanding of the unique experiences of deaf people along with the shared human conditions that unite us all,” Jordan wrote in an e-mail. “And I hope that deaf people will learn more about our community as well as more about how there are different ways to be deaf in the world.”

‘THROUGH DEAF EYES’
The documentary airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on KTWU in Topeka and at 9 p.m. on KCPT in Kansas City.

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  1. March 19, 2007 at 1:42 pm
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