Films: Deaf Jam

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Deaf Jam

Deaf Jam

USA, 2011, 70 Minute Running Time
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Judy Lieff
Producer: Steve Zeitlin, Judy Lieff
Editor: Keiko Deguchi
Principal Cast: 

Deaf Jam speaks volumes, often without a sound. Judy Lieff’s uplifting documentary follows deaf teens who attend the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York, as they learn to express themselves through poetry. Every Friday, the school sponsors an American Sign Language (ASL) poetry jam whose motto is “We’ll give you the tools, no rules.”

Aneta, an immigrant from Israel, joins the workshop and begins to express her frustrations with a hearing world through her dramatic visuals. Encouraged to compete, she attends area poetry slams for the deaf and is soon recognized for her creativity. When she and other students are invited to compete among their hearing peers, they accept the challenge. Aneta collaborates with Tahani, a young, hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two women merge their poetry and learn to communicate with one another—with or without an interpreter. The result is an inspiring, rhythmic performance that reaches out to both hearing and deaf audiences in a profound way.

Rounding out the chronicle, Lieff traces the politics of ASL and shows how the language has been embraced, rejected, and revisited in American society for decades. She addresses the prejudices against and isolation of deaf children. Through her use of clever animated graphics, she literally makes words fly through the air as students perform their ASL poetry. Appearances by some of the world’s most talented ASL slam poets and footage of Allen Ginsberg reading his celebrated “Howl” with an interpreter enhance Deaf Jam’s powerful message.

Sponsored by Gay and Lesbian fund for Colorado and Rocky Mountain PBS

In cooperation with Denver Jewish Film Festival

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