By Maria Gonzalez
An eye-opener to the complexity of the deaf community, the film “Deaf Jam” immerses its audience into the world of signing and how it is used to create poetry.
More than 50 people crowded the East Los Angeles College Auditorium Foyer on Thursday evening to see the film screening of “Deaf Jam” and a performance and discussion with American Sign Language artists. PBS SoCal, East Los Angeles College’s Department of Foreign Languages and the Chatting Hands Club hosted this event.
“Deaf Jam” is a documentary about a deaf teen named Aneta Brodski who discovers the art of ASL poetry. Brodski’s road to be one of the first poets to compete in a spoken-word slam leads her to a collaboration that transcends her riveting performances with passion. A poetry slam is a competition where poets read and sometimes perform original work and then are judged for merit by pre-selected members of the audience.
An Israeli immigrant living in Queens, New York, Brodski meets a hearing Palestanian girl Tahani who is a slam poet. In their home countries both women would be mortal enemies, but in New York they embark on a collaboration that changed the way people see the art of poetry by creating slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and deaf community.
The passion and expression Brodski transmits with signing is heard through the words of Tahani. They created an explosion of the hearing and deaf worlds, immersing them in ways so powerful they blur the political and religious backgrounds of these two young women, becoming one during the performance.
This film is a whole new dimension of the deaf community, showing the necessity they have to be understood for who they are. Shedding light on their feelings of the deaf youth community, “Deaf Jam,” brings out how they feel and the need of the culture identity they are looking for. Questions arise such as, “Why aren’t there many deaf professionals in the world?”, or “What’s next after graduating from a deaf high school?”
Chatting Hands Club advisor Melanie Vansell wants to bring more awareness of the deaf community to ELAC. “We need to have more events here at ELAC that are interpreted with signing,” said Vansell. Vansell was excited for the big turn-out for the event, and was happy to see the deaf and hearing community sharing the evening.
Marc Brown, a graduate from Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington D.C. and Atlanta Metropolitan College, presented a dance inspired by the film “Who Are You?” He wears a white mask, that hides who he really is. With his signing and movement, Brown expressed the feeling that the deaf community feels of being misrepresented in society.
Also joining the evening was speaker and ASL poet Terrrylene Sacchetti, who shared her experience that she had in the movie industry as a deaf person and her encounter with ASL poetry. “Oh, I was in heaven when I found out about ASL poetry,” said Sacchetti. She explained that when she was younger, she was intrigued by the Hollywood industry, but now she is more focused on being an artist.
Some of the audience asked if it would be possible to have an ASL poetry jam at ELAC, which Vansell said that was a great idea and should be done. Currently Deaf Jam Outreach is happening here in the US and around the world and is empowering the deaf youth to voice their feelings through ASL poetry and storytelling. “Deaf Jam,” will broadcast on PBS SoCal on Nov. 6 at 10 p.m.