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March 18, 2007

A Window on Deaf Culture

From: Washington Post - Washington,DC,USA - Mar 18, 2007

Sunday, March 18, 2007; Y03

A soundless world with a unique culture and a mystique misunderstood by many is the focus of Larry Hott's new documentary. But Hott cautions against describing the film using the word "deafness," which is a medical condition, he said. "This is not about a medical condition, but about a complicated and important part of American history."

"Through Deaf Eyes" covers the past 200 years of deaf culture and education, and features personal stories that are at turns emotional and humorous. With archival photos and footage, the show looks at "cures" for deafness, including religious faith healing and diving airplane rides, as well as technology that has aided the deaf. The program also examines the ideas of Alexander Graham Bell, who argued in the early 1900s against the use of sign language.

Interviews with actors Marlee Matlin and Bernard Bragg are included, along with six short films produced by deaf filmmakers, which appear between the longer segments.

The two-hour documentary also traces the rise of the District-based Gallaudet University, the nation's first college for the deaf with a signing environment. I. King Jordan, Gallaudet's first deaf president, now retired, is among those interviewed.

"We want people to leave the film with a beginning understanding of the unique experiences of deaf people along with the shared human conditions that unite us all," Jordan wrote in an e-mail. "If a viewer gets some of that, then I would think of the film as having been very successful. And I hope that deaf people will learn more about our community as well as more about how there are different ways to be deaf in the world."

-- Kathy Blumenstock

Through deaf Eyes


9 p.m.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company