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Image: A film assistant holding a clapperback.

CODA Wins Three Oscars, ‘Unmuting’ the Deaf World

This article by Nicole Nathan Bem was originally published on Goodnet.

This movie is a win for the deaf community.
CODA Wins Three Oscars, ‘Unmuting’ the Deaf World | This movie is a win for the deaf community.
Via: Apple TV 1

A sweet, coming-of-age film has captivated audiences, including the judges at the Academy Awards. The movie CODA is shining a light, winning Best Picture of 2021. Instead of clapping, movie stars cheered by waving their hands, an endearing and respectful sign to the much under-represented deaf community.

CODA means Children of Deaf Adults, and is about Ruby, a hearing teenage girl growing up with deaf parents and a deaf brother, according to El País. As opposed to following her own dreams of becoming a singer, she finds herself mostly at home, being an interpreter for her family. An interesting play on words, CODA is also an epilogue to a musical composition.

Image: A film assistant holding a clapperback, as they did on the set of CODA.
Source: Unsplash

All supporting actors are deaf 

This is an English language version of the 2014 movie La Famille Bélier, however, CODA takes this story to a new level. Unlike the French version, which used hearing actors, writer and director Sian Heder insisted on using deaf actors, a first for Hollywood. The result is a deep, insightful, and realistic portrayal of life within a deaf family. Deaf people, who often feel isolated, finally feel accepted, and are thrilled with this movie.

Laurie Ann Barish, a child of a deaf mother, cried when she watched the movie. “The deaf world is finally unmuted. I wish this [had]happened when I was younger, for my mom. It was a wonderful gift. It was for the world to see that we’re all the same. We’re all the same,” Barish told The Sentinel-Record.

The film reveals the hardships and challenges experienced by deaf people who are parenting and working in a hearing world. Using deaf actors who understand this reality and who sign fluently has been a game-changer. 

“For too long, the industry has rewarded actors and directors who have exploited the trope of faking sympathetic disabilities to win awards for themselves without bringing in Deaf people or people with disabilities to ensure authenticity,” Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, told The Sentinel-Record.

Exposing an under-represented world

Such authenticity has earned CODA many distinctions, including multiple awards at the 2021 Sundance Festival, as well as three Oscars: one for Best Picture, one for Best Supporting Actor Troy Kotsur, and one for Best Adapted Screenplay, according to IndieWire.

Thanks to CODA, cinema lovers may now be able to better understand and respect a world that has been mostly silenced. “It’s a culture that has been ignored and isolated and blocked off from access, Heder told IndieWire.

“To make an indie film for people to go see and talk about that was never going to reach the middle of the country? I hope that people are going to be exposed to deaf culture through this film, and exposed to ASL [American Sign Language] who might never have seen a scene before where a deaf family is sitting around a dinner table.” 

This is a feel-good movie filled with emotion, love, and the challenges of life, especially for a teenage girl. It has touched the hearts of people across the world, both hearing and deaf, and is uniting all. 

“It’s such a big win. For the Deaf community. For deaf people. For everyone,” John D’Onofrio, who is deaf, told The Sentinel-Record after the movie’s big win at the Oscars. Given all of these awards and positive publicity, more people may be inspired to see CODA.

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  1. Apple TV. “Coda – Official Trailer | Apple TV+.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 June 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pmfrE1YL4I.
Published: May 6, 2022

Image: Goodnet Logo

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