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Silent, but not without a voice

The inaugural ceremony of the 4th IIDFF saw an enthusiastic audience from the deaf community and students of media and cinema
© CBM India
The inaugural ceremony of the 4th IIDFF saw an enthusiastic audience from the deaf community and students of media and cinema

A remarkable event celebrating cinema by and about persons with hearing and speech disabilities, titled ‘India International Deaf Film Festival, was inaugurated on 28th December 2016 at the Jain University Campus in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

In its fourth year, the festival has lined up screenings of competing films, panel discussions, workshops and sharing by members of the deaf community. The three-day visual treat will end with awards being conferred for various categories open for the competitions. 

CBM India is one of the sponsors for the film festival, organised by the Deaf Leaders Foundation, and will also be holding a panel discussion and the inaugural screening of two short films that have been produced to create awareness and spread advocacy messages on inclusion and linguistic rights of the deaf community.

When silence speaks

Imagine not a word is spoken yet several conversations are flowing in all directions at the same moment, and that too without disruptions. For the most of us this is an uncommon scenario but for many this happens on a routine if only the room is full of ‘signers' like it was on Wednesday.

The ‘signers' are people who use the sign language to speak. This includes people with or without hearing impairment or deafness and speech disabilities. With over 10 million persons with hearing disabilities in India, the deaf people see the sign language as a right, like any other official language recognised in the country.

The relative ‘invisibility' of hearing and speech disabilities in comparison to other disabilities creates additional perceptual and attitudinal barriers for the deaf community. Though it is a fact that hearing disabilities globally constitutes the second largest group after blindness. Exclusion from communication processes and lack of access, compounded by a low level of awareness of entitlement of sign language, leaves a person with hearing and speech impairment marginalised from social and economic spaces. Since most of the popular mass media and audio-visual communication channels are not accessible for deaf people, participation in public and workspace is an everyday struggle.

Inclusive cinema and audience

The film festival with its theme of ‘human relations amongst the deaf, hard of hearing and the hearing', showcases the everyday lived experiences of barriers to communication and socialisation while highlighting the body of cinematic work currently being developed by deaf and people with speech impairment. The festival has received some 70 submissions of varying lengths, of which 32 entries are from India and 38 from foreign filmmakers.

Following the inaugural ceremony attended among others by Dr. Chenraj  Roychand, President Jain University and C. Senthil Rajan, Director, Directorate of Film Festivals, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The later was the chief guest for the event.

The opening ceremony was followed by a panel discussion and the panelists included: Shri. C. Senthil Rajan, Director, Directorate of Film Festivals, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Smt. Kiriti Rambhatla, Media Operations Lead, LinkedIn,  Shri. Amreesh Gopalakrishnan, Sign Language Researcher, Sign Language Interpreter, Sign Language Lexicographer and Film Maker and Shri. Parvinder Singh, Manager, Corporate Communications and Partnerships, CBM India. 

The panel discussion ended with three specific ideas for follow-ups and these are: a) Engaging with film producers and broadcasters to ensure the new technology currently available with regards to close captioning through customised hardware b) Building capacity of the deaf community to create visual content that is accessible and highlights inclusion c) Take the cinema made by the deaf community to different parts of the country through a partnership with the directorate of film festivals.
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We all feel very strongly about the need of education for enabling children to find opportunities and addressing development challenges of the country


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