Unheard Stories champion Deaf and Hard of Hearing lives

The Unheard Stories film festival aims to challenge misconceptions about people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

On 3 March, the Unheard Stories film festival launches a lineup of films focusing on Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) people. The event runs for one night, coinciding with World Hearing Day, and aspires to challenge misconceptions around the Deaf and HoH community.

This night of ‘unheard’ cinema has been arranged thanks to Soundfair, a non-profit committed to hearing equality. Soundfair has done important work on behalf of Victorians with hearing conditions for 90 years – but this is its first film festival. We spoke to Soundfair CEO Dr Caitlin Barr about the upcoming night.

Why is representation on film important to the Deaf and HOH community?

‘In our society, deafness is often associated with ageing and thus written off, but with these films we’re shining a spotlight on how diverse people’s stories are. What’s really striking though is that the barriers to social inclusion affect everyone – young, old and everything in between.’

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What are you hoping the impact of this festival will be?

‘All people who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf proudly identify with this part of their lives, without shame or hesitation. This is the beginning of broader change. We hope it will raise awareness, create empathy and start conversations. Hearing conditions are invisible, but with these four films we’re making their impact on people’s lives visible and relatable.’

What are your top picks from the festival?

Deafying Gravity is an incredibly beautiful, lyrical short that takes the viewer into a world of music and self-expression through dance combined with Auslan. Film is, of course, a visual medium and Deafying Gravity is a stunning watch. Equally, Amplify This! is for me a must see – the nine individual stories combine to create a bigger picture and call for all of us to play our part in creating a fairer world for people with hearing conditions.’

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What can cinemas do to improve the experience for Deaf and HOH cinemagoers?

‘Open captions all the way! Captions help everyone – people who have English as another language, people with sensory processing disorders and, of course, people who are HoH as well as people who are Deaf. It’s worth remembering though that for Auslan users, captions are in their second language so it’s also important to have more films with Auslan stories.’

Unheard Stories premieres on 3 March at Classic Cinemas Elsternwick, Melbourne. Tickets can be purchased from Humanitix.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports