Subtitles were not just a normal part of growing up for a kid with Deaf parents, they were a blessing. Subconsciously reading while, shock horror, watching TV, meant that in spelling I was top of the class.
Mis-pressing ‘888’ on the remote control would lead to inadvertent discoveries on Teletext, such as mind-enriching ‘My neighbour ate my cat’ regional news stories or addictive gaming on Bamboozle.
Meanwhile, the multi-coloured chat-up lines from each contestant on ‘Blind Date’ added a whole new layer of camp to Cilla’s pink-hued ‘lorras’.
But there were irritations, too. Like when the stenographer typing away at BBC Centre couldn’t catch up with the newsreaders, or simply nodded off, hands splurging across the keyboard, spraying screens up and down the country with bizarre symbols that wouldn’t look out of place on an Egyptian heiroglyph.
Subtitles were a way for both me, my brother and my parents to enjoy films and television programmes together, in a way hearing families could not.
Silent Laughs dir. Natalia Kouneli
And then, as always, you grow up, move away, forget. You notice change. Subtitles are also called Closed Captions. Typetalk is now the much uncooler sounding Text Relay. Disability Living Allowance is now called Personal Independence Payment. You learn that not all change is good.
I started New Queer Visions, a sort of film festival sidebar, as a response to what I saw as the growing trend of LGBTQ film festivals programming films for the L, the G, the B, the T and the Q – separately.
With a background working in film distribution and production that was an umbrella for all things Queer, and knowing that there was always room to innovate in a society that was increasingly curious and hungry for fresh voices in film, it seemed like a good idea to create a venue for showcasing films from around the world that wouldn’t otherwise get shown, especially as so many more short films are made now than ever before.
Sign dir. Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Recently, in trawling through submissions, film festival programmes and the World Wide Web, stories about the deaf queer experience started to emerge and cluster.
This was pretty exciting stuff for someone whose only exposure to a Deaf character in mainstream film was Hugh Grant’s brother in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ (David Bower), and for whom the only short film about the Deaf Queer experience pre-Millenium Dome was Jade Bryan’s ‘Cutting the Edge of a Free Bird’.
Whatsmore, not only were these films infusing broader genres such as horror (‘Dawn of the Deaf’ dir. Rob Savage) and comedy (‘Hold Music’ dir. Michael McNeely, ‘Silent Laughs’ dir. Natalia Kouneli) into the mix, they avoid the tropes we so often see attached to disability on screen, mainly via ad-sponsored ‘Kleenex moments’ otherwise known as inspiration porn.
Cutting the Edge of a Free Bird
In an age where making a short film is not as technically intimidating or expensive as it once was, more voices are able to gain access to a camera. On the other hand, getting these stories to audiences is another challenge.
In a country where even publicly funded screening venues look to the bottom line or keeping distributor relationships cushty at the expense of letting fresh voices be heard, it is becoming increasingly difficult for non-mainstream films and programming to break through to the surface. Profit or principle? You only have to look to Paris, with a cinema count that is triple that of London’s, to see how it could have been.
So, all the more reason to celebrate what we have. The Rio cinema in Dalston is one of the very few independent cinemas in London that openly supports film festivals, alternative programming, and the exhibition of independent films outside of Hollywood fare.
The East End Film Festival, which is hosting New Queer Visions this June, is one of the most exciting places to catch films you otherwise would never get a chance to see. I thank both them and the Rio for hosting ‘Sign of the Times’.
‘New Queer visions: Sign of the Times’, screens at the Rio Cinema, Dalston on Saturday June 10th at 3.45pm. All films will be screened with HoH subtitles, followed by a filmmaker Q&A with BSL interpreter.
Simon is a film director and programmer who is part of the founding team of discovery platform FilmDoo.com
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out about 5 funny ways to use captions!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people