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March 23, 2007

Hear and Now

From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Rochester,NY,USA - Mar 23, 2007

Gripping documentary follows a deaf couple's journey into the hearing world

Jack Garner
Staff film critic

(March 23, 2007) — The Deaf Rochester Film Festival opens tonight with a winner, a deeply affecting documentary called Hear and Now that's already proven its worth as the audience favorite at January's Sundance Film Festival. Maybe that's why the opening film already is sold out.

But wait, it gets better. Hear and Now also profiles a local couple, well-known in the Rochester deaf community, and the film couldn't ask for more amiable, sympathetic casting.

Remember, a documentary can't count on artificial star power to elevate its game; the real people in the film have to grab our attention and generate our empathy. That's what happens with Paul and Sally Taylor. They're deaf 65-year-old retirees from Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf who each decide to have the cochlear implant installed with the hope of hearing. Hear and Now follows them on this journey — sometimes uplifting, sometimes sad, sometimes scary and sometimes enlightening.

Adding to the film's very real emotional depth is its subjective nature. The director and occasional narrator is Irene Taylor Brodsky, an Emmy-winning CBS, A&E and HBO filmmaker who took the opportunity to make a movie about her own parents. Brodsky now lives and works in Portland, Ore. She returned to the area to chronicle her parents' shared experiences of decision-making, surgery, recovery and aftermath.

Hear and Now is a beautifully made film, with footage that helps filmgoers understand the richness of the world of sight, the challenges of the world of no sound and the considerable talents and charm of her parents, as well as the very real psychological and emotional challenges they face.

The cochlear implant element, though very important, ultimately becomes a device to help viewers get to experience the strength, frustrations and deep love of the Taylors.

We follow the Taylors a year into their new lives, and the technology hasn't been quite as successful as they might have hoped. Perhaps Brodsky can amend the film occasionally with an updating scroll because later filmgoers are going to want to know how the couple is doing. Area filmgoers can get their own in-person update on June 14 when the film also will be shown at Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Taylors and Brodsky will appear for a Q&A. Tonight's showing is at 7 at The Little, 240 East Ave.

Hear and Now
Cast: Paul and Sally Taylor.
Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky.
Length: 85 minutes.
Jack's rating: With 10 as a must-see, this film rates 10.

© 2007, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.