Seattle’s deaf community hoping to build understanding through film festival

Editor’s Note: KPLU does not typically provide audio transcripts of radio stories. However, we’ve made it available in this case in hopes of making the story accessible to all readers. You can also find captioned video of the interview below.

People who are deaf or have hearing loss often find themselves misunderstood, says Patty Liang.

It happened to her once on a plane. A representative from the airline labeled her as disabled, which resulted in someone meeting her at the gate with a wheelchair.

“I don’t need a wheelchair,” Liang said through an American Sign Language interpreter. “I can walk just fine. I can see just fine. Those types of things happen.”

And that’s the point of the Seattle Deaf Film Festival — “to show the variety in our community, and what their experiences are, and how different they are,” said Liang, the festival director.

Take, for example, sign language. It’s used in the films, but the selections come from around the world, so it’s not all American Sign Language.

“We want to learn about other communities and our commonalities that we share,” Liang said. “Everyone is different, but we do have those commonalities, and it’s a good way to support each other.”

The films have audio, and are subtitled as well. There are dramas, documentaries, a category of films for mature audiences as well as family-friendly selections, too. Some of the films deal with serious issues. In the Dutch documentary “Onbeperkt,” we meet 29-year-old Simone who has Usher syndrome, a rare and incurable genetic disorder that causes both hearing and vision loss.

“Tomorrow I’ll finally get the results of the eye test,” Simone says in Dutch. “I’m a little bit nervous.”

There are comedies, too. “Still Here” is a British comedy about aging Deaf club performers who rally around one of their own who falls ill.

Liang says the film choices are varied because the deaf community is varied.

“Some people identify as deaf,” Liang said. “Some identify as hard of hearing. Some identify as just having a hearing loss. So the community, it’s not all the same. There’s no formal census.”

Still, there are some things that everyone shares, says Liang.

“The deaf community still has feelings, emotions, creativity — the same as everyone else in this world,” she said.

The Seattle Deaf Film Festival runs from April 4 to April 6 at the Northwest Film Forum on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

American Sign Language interpretation for this story was provided by Cameron Larson. 


About the author

Ed Ronco

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Ed Ronco came to KPLU in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KPLU’s Morning Edition. He’s been reporting news since he was 18, but Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government. Ed grew up in Wyandotte, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University. Since moving to Seattle, Ed says he’s learned patience from area freeways, moderation from area Thai restaurants, and discipline from his alarm clock, which wakes him up each day at 3 a.m.