Discover Poetry You Can’t Hear: Deaf Jam Premieres on PBS, November 3
In an incredibly affecting documentary, filmmaker Judy Lieff “explores the beauty and power of American Sign Language (ASL) poetry.” Viewers meet deaf teen Aneta Brodski, an Israeli immigrant high school student who lives in New York and attends the Lexington School for the Deaf, in Deaf Jam, an exploration of the slam poetry scene as translated and transfigured by people who do not use the spoken word.
Like many hearing-impaired people, Aneta doesn’t wish to be able to hear, she wishes she was able to communicate with people outside the deaf community, but that would require outsiders to learn sign language. (Perhaps if public schools stopped offering courses in “foreign” languages and switched to “world languages,” ASL could be added to the curriculum of more schools.) Despite the communications barrier, Aneta is an energetic, expressive young woman who ably conveys her emotions and frustrations.
ASL poetry is “a vibrant, three-dimensional art form where body movements convey meaning.” When Aneta becomes involved in a program promoting the medium, she discovers her own talent and an outlet for some of her frustration. When she is teamed with Tahani Salah, a hearing Palestinian slam poet, their differences do not prevent teamwork, the creation of poetry, and friendship.
Deaf Jam incorporates high-energy music, animated graphic text, and other innovative techniques, producing an illuminating, absorbing look into a culture that is foreign to many of us (after watching Deaf Jam, I was shocked to realize that I do not know, nor have I ever met, any deaf people). This intimate look into the lives and feelings of Aneta and her schoolmates fascinates, educates, entertains, and charms. It will premiere on PBS’ Independent Lens, Thursday, November 3, at 10:00 p.m. (check local listings).