Rebecca-Anne Withey: Why I love Channel 4’s signed and subtitled advert for the Rio Paralympics

Posted on July 15, 2016

The commercial for the Rio Paralympics this September is out – and boy is it a good one.

I knew that the Paralympics had introduced the Superhuman theme back in 2012 but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer greatness of the new “Yes I Can!” advertisement.

It features more than 100 people with disabilities; musicians, dancers, office workers, athletes, artists and more. It’s set to a cover version of Sammy Davis Jrs “Yes I Can” and the words couldn’t be more apt.

There is a regular version of the advert, an audio described version, and most importantly a marvellous signed and subtitled version. This is led by deaf artist and actor David Ellington who, although he has a role similar to that of an in-vision interpreter, is a star of the advert in his own right.

Rather than translating the lyrics while remaining fixed in the bottom right screen of the television, David’s movements and signs are choreographed perfectly to match the action simultaneously taking place.

He appears to run behind a cheering football fan, dances like a rockstar and even morphs into a karate athlete. The costume and choreography are tremendous and only highlight just how talented David is, portraying so many characters in one song.

It really is a delight for the eyes. Working with David to choreograph the signed version was Alim Jayda, an esteemed actor and a native user of BSL due to having deaf parents.

Watch the behind the scenes video below:

Speaking to Alim, I discovered he was sought out by a theatre company who were on the hunt for Channel 4 for artists with sign & choreography skills. With it being such a huge opportunity for any artist but with the added responsibility of ensuring accessibility for deaf viewers, Alim explained the challenges they worked to overcome;

“My main aim was to make sure that it was completely accessible. It was important to myself, David and the company to ensure that we were as respectful to the translation as we were the artistic vision. We wanted to make sure there was lots of choreography and charisma but needed to make sure that this did not affect the signing reception.

The hardest challenge was making sure the BSL was exactly on time with the lyrics which is unusual.

With interpreted pieces. I stood opposite David on the shoot day as a guide to ensure everything was on time and give him markers. He has an overwhelming natural ability of being able to understanding the rhythm of the song anyway.

All hearingies were given industrial ear phones so the music could be blared allowing David to feel the vibrations.”

And if you check out the Behind the Scenes video (above) you can even see Alim wearing those ear phones while David rehearsed!

Some people have asked me why I think Channel 4 have made separate versions, not one completely accessible version for all… And I don’t have an answer yet for that BUT if you catch the regular version watch out for a familiar face as deaf sign singer Fletch@ is featured signing “Yes I Can!”

That’s deaf representation in the main commercial as well as a brilliantly signed version for all for us too.

I love the superhumans, and that’s a super advert Channel 4. More please!

Watch out as the advert airs on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight.

Read more of Rebecca’s articles for us here.

Rebecca Anne Withey is a freelance writer with a background in Performing Arts & Holistic health. 

She is also profoundly deaf, a sign language user and pretty great lipreader. 

Her holistic practices and qualifications include Mindfulness, Professional Relaxation Therapy, Crystal Therapy and Reiki.

She writes on varied topics close to her heart in the hope that they may serve to inspire others.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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