May 1, 2018

Making Noise in Silence: School Pictures

The subject of Mina T. Son's mini-documentary is a pair of South Korean-born students at an American high school for the deaf. We learn only snippets about them: He's a valedictorian senior who wrestles and works on the yearbook; she's a junior working on a large colorful mural in one hallway, an artist-in-the-making who can hear somewhat with the help of a cochlear implant. It's a strange little film in that, since it only lasts 20 minutes, you never get a sense of the school culture outside of brief scenes in the cafeteria, the gymnasium, and the classroom. Their home lives, split between weekdays in the dorms and weekends at home if you live nearby, is similarly only glimpsed. Yet how much is learned in these brief moments.

One senses great divides between the young man and his parents who he communicates to on the phone via a human translator who either simplifies what his parents are saying or is sharing some fairly detached reactions to his acceptance into Gallaudet. Similarly, the young woman feels reluctant to hear her relatives at home where neither her aunt or her mother are ever shown signing as a way to communicate. You get the feeling that there's a tremendous amount of effort being put into getting these kids a proper education on one hand and also a reluctance to bridge the world into which they're being propelled. (It's worth noting that the young woman's dad has returned to Korea because he didn't like the United States.)

Given the relative brevity of the film, it's preposterous to truly conclude anything about the school, the parents, the two teenagers... And Making Noise in Silence isn't actually out to make any definitive statements either. But as a prompt for a discussion on deaf culture, I'd say it was pretty effective.

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