Live blog: Deaffest 2012 – Saturday!

Posted on May 26, 2012

Today is the second day of the UK’s deaf film and TV festival Deaffest 2012! Click here to read last night’s live blog, including reaction to ‘The Third Brigade’, ‘Still Here’ and ‘Sex or Chocolate.’ Read on below for today’s film-by-film blog by editor Charlie Swinbourne. For today’s programme, just click here, and don’t forget to follow the Twitter hashtag #Deaffest2012!

3am: Great night! In the courtyard there was a burlesque performance, sign poetry and even a marriage proposal (accepted, to the delight of the crowd). Having a party at The Lighthouse meant that everyone partied and socialised in one place (unlike previous years) and there was an amazing, warm party atmosphere as a result. I’m off to bed to rest my weary 4% alcohol-riddled head. Goodnight for the second time folks.

9.55pm: Now time for the Keep Calm and Carry On Signing party in the courtyard! Thanks to everyone who has followed this blog and the Tweets, hope you all enjoyed it, and felt as if you could follow everything that was going on here at Deaffest. The highlights from yesterday and today, for me, were ‘The Third Brigade,’ ‘Still Here,’ ‘The Portrait,’ ‘Through Ellen’s Eyes,’ ‘Twelve,’ ‘Deaf Vampires,’ and ‘Sex or Chocolate.’ I hope to be back next year where we’ll get to see Ted’s new film, among many others! I’m now off for a nice drink or two. As I said last night, further updates tonight (if any) may be influenced by perfectly legal substances. With around a 4% alcohol ratio. Thank you all, and goodnight.

9.50pm: The tribute video features a host of people involved in the festival, thanking Frank for his hard work.

9.47pm: Lots of thanks happening now on stage, including a tribute to Frank Challenger, who has been supporting this festival and deaf filmmaking generally, for many years. Marilyn and Nikki have just given him a very shiny object. Alas, I’m a little too far away to see what it is. “This is the only consistent deaf film festival that happens every year in the UK.” Nice words from Frank. Then they show him a tribute film.

9.41pm: The other contestants have recieved a round of applause, prompted by Ted Evans. There’s a massive cheque for £5000 on stage.

9.37pm: Ted Evans: “I have some exciting news. I receieved a text message earlier to say Philip Bloom, if I win, he would like to work with me on my film.” Nikki Stratton has just added that the verdicts were delivered by secret ballot so none of the judges knew who would win. The film will be released next year here at Deaffest!

9.35pm: And the winner of the Ben Steiner bursary is… TED EVANS!

9.32pm: I’ve been where the Ben Steiner contenders are sitting. Not literally, although I have sat in a lot of the seats in this auditorium. No, I mean two years ago, when I applied for the bursary. These moments before the verdict is read out are incredibly nerve-wracking.

9.30pm: Ah yes, this is the Michael Jackson show that wowed the crowd last year. SPECTACULAR.

9.28pm: I’m feeling nervous, and I’m not even part of the Ben Steiner awards in any way at all. I don’t know how the contenders must be feeling. First, Def Motion are back for another dance before we find out the big news.

9.23pm: Now we’re approaching the big news – the Ben Steiner Awards. The judges are well-known Brit filmmaker Philip Bloom, Deaf directors Samuel Dore and Louis Neethling, and Zebra Uno’s Nikki Stratton. We’re now watching a film of the contenders. They are: Teresa Garrety, Amanda Jane Richards, Luke Blackburn, Simon Herdman, Giles Bowman and Ted Evans.

9.15pm: Def Motion are back, and everyone’s clapping in time to the beat. They’re a seriously talented bunch. Here’s their Facebook page:

9.12pm: In other news, I’m getting so hot I’ve rolled up my jeans in the hope that a small amount of exposed flesh on my calf will help cool me down.

9.08pm: John Smith’s just done a great gag about cinema subtitles. The joke is about his girlfriend not telling him that hearing people also in the cinema are complaining about them. As part of the sketch he mimed beating up a hearing person. Badly. If anyone had strayed onto the stage at that point, they would have ended up in A&E.

9pm: John Smith’s back on stage wowing the crowd. He’s just opened his bag of tricks. First out was a tiny, er, appendage. Plastic. “Why did you put this in here? Yours!” He shouted out (in sign) to his girlfriend, embarassed in the front row. He’s now wearing a multicoloured wig.

8.50pm: During the interval, I encountered…

Director Ted Evans and actor Alex Nowak being all patriotic…

Ben Steiner hopeful Giles ‘Hugh Grant’ Bowman cosying up with actress Emily Howlett…

And Luke Blackburn (who spent two hours getting dressed for this) donning his ‘don’t mess’ face.

8.47pm: During the interval, Deaf filmmaker Simon Herdman caught me “totally naked red handed” packing my laptop away. Then posted it on Twitter. I will never forgive him. I look like I should have been a ghost in one of those European films shown earlier today.

8.27pm: Time for an interval. We’ve all been invited to go for a smoke. Everyone has left. Let’s hope someone has a lighter. Then John Smith will be regaling us with more comedy. See you in 15.

8.25pm: Everything seems to have stopped for a minute. Ah, Def Motion are back! This time they’re wearing sailor’s costumes. They’re really in the 50’s vibe. The classic song ‘I believe’ plays. Then we’re quickly back to Michael Jackson again. Then it’s ‘Rock around the Clock.’ I feel like I’m watching the scene at the end of Back to the Future where Marty’s parents fall in love at the high school dance. The union flag is being waved by all and sundry across the auditorium.

8.18pm: We’re now seeing some clips from behind the scenes on Bim Ajadi’s ‘Dead Money.’ You can see that film in full here: That’s quickly followed by clips from Stephen Collins’s ‘Luke Starr.’ Then a big question mark appears on screen. Who will join Bim and Stephen as recipients of the £5000 award?

8.12pm: John Smith had the audience in hysterics. Now we’re finding out more about who Ben Steiner was, courtesy of Zebra Uno’s Nikki Stratton and Marilyn Bueno Del Carpio. Ben Steiner died 12 years ago, and the reason the award was named after him was because he was passionate about the media and Deaf people’s potential to be part of it. Marilyn says he was: “someone with such class and such skill.” Everyone puts their hands up in the air and applauds deaf-style.

8.08pm: John Smith started off by spraying the audience with his water pistol. I wish it reached a bit further, it’s roasting in here.

8.02pm: John Smith/The Limping Chicken says: “The notetaker quit. The CSW quit. But the leg has improved.”

8pm: A huge limping chicken is walking up on stage! John Smith seems to be under the costume. I think.

7.57pm: The presenters of The Hub, Gavin Lilley and Elizabeth Bojas will be leading proceedings tonight. They’ve just introduced Deaf comedian John Smith but he’s nowhere to be found.

7.56pm: The message from Richard Griffiths has been read out again by Frank Challenger. “I would expect a film by a deaf person to be at least as good as anybody else’s.”

7.53pm: What’s happening tonight according to the Deaffest website: A look at what has been happening in the Ben Steiner Film Bursary Program. Def Motion will be back with 1950s inspired dances and John Smith the acclaimed Deaf comedian will be talking about what being British means. Last, but not least, we’ll discover who the winner is of the 2012 Ben Steiner Film Bursary! Then we’ll be going to the Keep Calm and Carry on Signing Party.

7.48pm: And we’re kicking off with Def Motion! Visuals are appearing on screen and all five have just jumped on stage, led by Billy Read, (who was interviewed for this site by Emily Howlett recently:

7.39pm: I’ve just been talking to Frank Challenger, of The Lighthouse, who told me that Richard Griffiths, the new patron of Deaffest, sent a lovely handwritten letter accepting the role. That’s one for the Deaffest archives.

7.37pm: People are streaming into the auditorium now, all set for an exciting night of comedy, dance and awards! Eight young deaf filmmakers are up for the Ben Steiner bursary and we’ll be seeing their ideas expressed in short video clips on the big screen. Stay tuned for all the news as the evening progresses!

6.42pm: Just found out via Twitter that Deaf director Ted Evans is wearing a Star Wars t-shirt to tonight’s 1950s themed bash. I’m little better myself, I’m wearing smart casual garb, hoping my beige loafers will make everything ok. We’ll all be shamed by Luke Blackburn, who left the pub to get dressed at 5.30pm. Doors open at 7.30pm. What can he achieve sartorially in two hours? We’re about to find out…

6.28pm:: Two contrasting observations on Wolverhampton this year:
1) The gleaming new bus station genuinely improves the look of the town centre.
2) But it can still seem like a rough place. Yesterday, I saw a man in an Everton shirt punching a phone box after an argument with his girlfriend. The girlfriend then started screaming at him across the road.

5.37pm: I’m about to break a record for consecutive meals eaten in Wetherspoons.

5.18pm: Right, I’m off to get dinner. Back at around 7 for a night of entertainment and the announcement of the winner of this year’s Ben Steiner award!

4.52pm: Just before I came into the presentation, I was talking to Sam Hope from the University of Wolverhampton, one of the partners in the project. She told me how the learning activities are designed around authentic media documents taken from the production process, such as Location Risk Agreements, Crew and Actors Call Sheets, and Scripts. This aims to enable Deaf users to develop language skills that are directly transferrable to their work environment.

4.50pm: I’m now in the SignMedia presentation, where Deaf filmmaker Louis Neethling and legendary Deaf presenter Clive Mason are telling the audience about the project. This is a brand-new interactive learning tool, funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme, for Deaf media professionals and media students. The project aims to improve their English skills in order to help them progress in their filmmaking and media careers. It has been filmed in British Sign Language, as well as the Italian and Austrian equivalents. You can find out more at the following link: and the learning resource can be found at

4.39pm: I didn’t have the nap, but I did escape to the courtyard where I saw lots of stalls being packed up. It’s been baking out there, with one stall reporting how their laptop nearly caught fire. In the meantime, the ‘making of’ film for Bim Ajadi’s ‘Dead Money’ was shown. The documentary was directed by Stephen Collins who, as well as being a very talented actor, was the last winner of the Ben Steiner bursary two years ago. You can see the trailer for his film, Luke Starr, at this link:

3.57pm: ‘Lucia’ is a stylishly-made (if quite statically shot) Spanish film about a prostitute who befriends one of her clients. Unfortunately it’s a slow, drawn-out film that reveals its secrets very very slowly. In scenes three times as long as they need to be. This might just be the moment to have my annual mid-Saturday afternoon Deaffest nap.

3.40pm: ‘The Street’ was well-shot and turned into a thought-provoking film about sexuality and homelessness.

3.23pm: A French film called ‘The Street’ is next up. It’s based on a true story.

3.19pm: There’s a point in this film where the product placement really stands out like a sore thumb (it was funded by Australia’s national relay service). It’s a shame because in other ways it’s a really creative and cleverly made film – as the way the couple’s handwritten notes are used at the end testifies.

3.10pm: Next up is a film I’ve already seen online, the excellent ‘Quiet Signs of Love’ which was funded by Australia’s National Relay Service. It’s also available to see online on both Vimeo and YouTube. Here is the Vimeo version, below.

2.55pm: Recently I saw a great film called ‘Weekend’, about two gay men who meet and fall in love over the course of one weekend in Nottingham. Now we’re watching the Spanish film ‘Me and You,’ which explores similar territory, in being about two men who meet, then have to navigate the reactions of their family and friends.

2.49pm: ‘The Beach House’ was produced as part of a university degree, and had a lot going for it. The directors, Richard Standen and Tom Stanley picked an interesting subject matter – a hearing son in a deaf family feeling like an outcast. Great to see deaf actor Alex Nowak in the film, his body of work is increasing fast, and he’s worked with an increasing number of both deaf and mainstream filmmakers. He’s definitely one to watch for the future.

2.39pm: We’re now into the Love and Loss section of the festival, starting with ‘The Beach House.’ After six years away from home, River Ames, the only non-deaf child in an otherwise completely Deaf family, returns home for the reading of his parents’ will. As they wait for the keys to the beach house which has been left to all three siblings, they are compelled to express their feelings after all this time apart.

2.38pm: Fantastic documentary, the production team deserve a big pat on the back.

2.20pm: We are now watching the second part of the BSLBT/Remark documentary directed by Louis Neethling, The History of Deaf Education. This can also be seen online:

2.15pm: ‘Through Ellen’s Ears’ was a very interesting documentary with an engaging subject in Ellen herself. Beautifully filmed, I thought it was a drama at first. It non-judgmentally focused on Ellen’s difficult communication and education choices. Whichever way she chose, I hope she’s happy and flourishing.

2.03pm: The co-director of ‘Twelve’, Ted Evans has just tweeted me saying that although the film didn’t win, he was glad to see the film on the big screen.

2.02pm: This already looks like a stand-out film. It’s playing in the second part of the ‘Deaf Experience’ section.

1.55pm: Now the screen is showing ‘Through Ellen’s Ears,’ a Dutch film. Here’s the description on the website: Eleven year old Ellen doesn’t speak with her voice but with her hands. She uses sign language because she is deaf. Ellen has to decide which secondary school to attend. She doesn’t want to go to boarding school for the deaf like other deaf children. She would much rather go to an ordinary school or to the school for the hard of hearing, just like her best friend Myrthe, who is hard of hearing. But will she be admitted there?

1.52pm: Next up is the award announcement. For me, I’m split between ‘Twelve’ and ‘Deaf Vampires.’ The winner, however, is… Film Alone. Fireworks appear on the cinema screen as the award is handed over. The judge commended the filmmaker’s achievement in making the film in one day, and “crucially, making it themselves.”

1.49pm: ‘Deaf Vampires’ is a black comedy featuring kids from Oak Lodge School in Balham, South London. A pupil at a school finds that many of his peers are acting strangely… and soon things get a bit bloodthirsty. It’s getting lots of laughs, and the blood in the film looks like it’d go well on top of an ice cream. There’s some very inventive physical and visual humour, and I love the ‘vampire walk’ the kids start doing when they are starting to change…

1.36pm: In ‘Betrayal’ by Thomas Hickman, two best friends argue over a girlfriend, then one pulls out a gun and shoots the other. That seems harsh. Even worse, the killer turns out to be a Sunday Express reader. Joking aside, it’s quite nice in this run of films to see a two-hander, where two young actors (one in particular) gets a lot of screen time. ‘To be continued’ came up on screen at the end, so watch out for a sequel.

1.23pm: As it says on the tin, ‘Top tips for Health Professionals’ features loads of deaf awareness tips for health professionals. It’s funny and makes its points very clearly. Even better, it’s narrated by a big orange fish.

1.18pm: Now we have ‘Twelve’, by the NDCS, written and co-directed by Ted Evans and Bev Wilson. A boy called Logan arrives at a country house that at first seems empty. Then he meets eleven other young people. When they realise there’s no adults some of them think it’s going to be fun. But when people start disappearing, they wonder what they should do…. very well shot and the twelve young actors must be very proud.

1.05pm: Now it’s ‘Communication Street,’ an animation which is about: problems Deaf young people have communicating at home, with parents, brothers and sisters. In a fun and entertaining way it looks at things such as being woken up, not being told what’s going on, communicating in the car, not hearing someone calling for you, and the age old arguments over subtitles. For each problem a solution is also suggested by our Communication Street voiceover pigeon. It’s engaging, got a great sense of humour (a lot like the real Coronation Street) and features some great advice for communication within deaf families. That’s the loudest applause of the day so far.

12.58pm: First up is ‘Tatoo’ and ‘Film Alone’, the first featuring students from Braidwood School for the Deaf and Deanfield Community School, faciliated by Bim Ajadi. A boy gets a tatoo, his Mum goes mad, but it all ends on an upbeat note.

12.55pm: Alex Nowak is now on stage saying a few words. He’s encouraging young filmmakers to go and introduce themselves to the experienced filmmakers for “tips, advice, or in the future a job!” Now we’ll watch the films before the winner is announced.

12.52pm: After a quick visit to Sainsbury’s local, I’m back in the auditorium looking forward to the Young Deaffest Awards. Seven films are coming up, and there’ll be an award at the end, presented by Alex Nowak. Sam Dore is the judge.

12pm: Neat twist at the end of ‘Leo,’ even if it’s not very different from twists in other films seen earlier today. The difference is that ‘Leo’ did it just a bit better. There’s applause as credits roll. That’s my cue to grab a spot of lunch.

11.54am: Leo can’t decide between the deaf girl and the deaf dead girl. Tough.

11.46am: ‘Leo’ is now playing. It’s about a boy who has lost his girlfriend in an accident. He falls into depression. A few weeks later, he meets another girl… it’s doomed, basically. He’s not ready yet.

11.38am: ‘Unexpected Encounter’ was one-note and predictable. It seemed too inspired by smash-hit horror ‘The Ring.’ That said, the star was very watchable and he’d shine with a better story to work with. That’s where some of the foreign deaf films seem a little behind the British films in my view – in their storylines and scripting. Or maybe, as a Brit, I’m biased?

11.33am: We’re now watching ‘Unexpected Encounter.’ I saw this one at the Clin d’Oeil festival last year. I can’t quite remember what happens at the end, but I’m sure about to find out. In other news, what I thought was a wise decision to wear flip flops today isn’t working out too well. My feet are getting pretty cold. Still, maybe I’ll be thankful later as the day heats up.

11.27am: ‘Whispering Hands’ had a neat twist at the end but overall, was too slow paced for me. And some of the scenes didn’t have enough energy to them. On the upside, I now really really want to go on holiday to Malaysia (Mrs Swinbourne will be pleased).

11.14am: Here’s a pic of Deaf artist Katrina Jones’s stall in the marketplace!

11.13am: Now we’re watching Malaysian film ‘Whispering Hands.’

11.10am: Some fantastic special effects in ‘The Portrait,’ as a portrait comes to life. It’s very well shot generally, but perhaps could have done more with its plot and story. Still, one of the better dramas of this year’s fest.

11.03am: We’re now watching ‘The Portrait’ by Alex Sambe, a French director. It’s about murders in a rich apartment in Paris and has a supernatural element apparently.

11.00am: Well that was a great documentary and very moving in parts.

10.57am: We’ve just revisited the Milan Conference in 1880 where the oral method of teaching deaf children was voted for, over sign language. One contributor: “Education should be about using your brain to think.” Another has told how he had to write down many times ‘I must not sign’ on a piece of paper. A teacher has just said that many deaf people went on to “educate themselves” after leaving school.

10.40am: This documentary, which travels back to the roots of deaf education 400 years ago, and is presented by Louise Harte, can also be seen at home. Just go to:

10.38am: ‘Making Noise in Silence’ showed how two Korean teenagers who went to America found a new identity in their deafness, quite distinct from the identity they might have assumed when they emigrated. There were some common themes around family and communication that seem to exist across the deaf world. The two teenagers were very likable and while not spectacular, this documentary has a great value. We’re now watching the first part of the BSLBT’s ‘The History of Deaf Education,’ a Remark! production that was directed by Louis Neethling.

10.27am: There are two major awards to look forward to today. The Young Deaffest Awards (judged by deaf filmmaker Sam Dore) and the award of the Ben Steiner bursary! I was talking to Amanda Jane Richards and Giles Bowman, two contenders for the bursary, last night. We’ll be seeing their films, featuring their ideas, later on.

10.23am: We’re now watching ‘Making Noise in Silence’ which is about two Korean High School students who attend California School for the Deaf.

10.21am: ‘Three and a half senses’ was a very informative and cleverly shot documentary about a girl with Usher Syndrome called Kara Weslake. From the website: Born profoundly deaf and with a tunnel vision in which she sees the world through a small hole, and the hole is getting smaller and smaller. Staring at her face is a scary possibility of becoming fully blind one day. How does Kara, a strong-willed lady who tries not to rely on others as possible, cope with this knowledge? Are her dreams affected by her condition?

10.09am: The eggs benedict was just what the doctor ordered. I’ve just been chatting to the legendary Linda Richards and exploring the Deaffest Fair, with a range of stalls in the marketplace. There’s great art work from Katrina Jones and Louise Buglass, stalls from the BSLBT, Deafinitely Theatre (who bring Love’s Labour’s Lost to Wolverhampton soon) and many others. One stall that really stands out is from Ear Horn ( who have a range of antique deaf books and prints. They’ve come all the way from north-west Wales to be here. There’s a great sunny vibe out there.

9.09am: Is Wetherspoons eggs benedict as nice as their usual breakfast? We’re about to find out.

8.34am: Well, last night was great fun. After the films ended, anyone and everyone stayed in the courtyard having a tipple and waxing lyrical about the films they’d seen. There was also a lot of chatter about Deafinitely Theatre’s play Love’s Labour’s Lost, which is now on tour after wowing The Globe last week. I’m very mildly sore of head, so it’s time for breakfast then I’ll be back in the hot seat!

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancyDeafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.

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