Picture Banner description (credits to Feeling Through): Movie poster-style graphic that promotes the July 16th 4pm PT/7pm ET screening. On the left shows both actors sitting on a bench, with Tereez in green parka jacket and blue denim jeans, hands clasped in front, and looking to your left slightly, while Artie was sitting upright, leaning back, looking up. At the top is headshots of both actors looking opposite way. On the right of the banner, the text reads: "To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act". Blue font text then reads: “ADA 30 NYC”. Hosted by: NYC Department of Transportation’s DiverseAbilities Employee Resource Group & NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Presented in partnership with Helen Keller Services.

What happens when a young sighted male teenager encounters a Deafblind guy?

An unlikely friendship then blooms between these two total strangers.

This is my film review of Feeling Through, the first short film to star a DeafBlind actor, Robert Tarango, in a lead role.

The other day, I had a chance to watch the screening, Feeling Through Experience. It consists of three parts: the film, the “Connecting the Dots” documentary, and a panel with the cast and director including Q and A.

I did not particularly enjoy the documentary and the live chat with the panel – I was neither an educational nor informative person to begin with, but I did really enjoy the heart-warming film screening.

What was interesting about the film was that they cast a real-life Deafblind person to play the role of the Deafblind character, Artie.

I first learnt of this Feeling Through Experience screening from a friend. Subsequently I saw the publicity message posted by Equal Dreams on their Facebook. As a Deafblind person, who is unable to watch captions or listen to audio description with my screen reader, I must say that the whole experience is accessible, from the point of registration till the screening itself. I truly enjoyed the film very much.

 

Screengrab that showed 2 windows side by side: on the left is the YouTube screening showing a scene in the film where Tereez said "I got you", as he extended his arm to Artie, and on the right is the livestream text window.
The screening is made accessible with closed captions as well as a text stream page that has both captions of the dialogues as well as the text description of the visual elements such as the actions and settings.

“I got you.”

That particular scene, where apologetic Tereek said that to Artie as he steadied Artie whose cane accidentally hit the construction barrier, was quite touching. That moment when Tereek no longer felt frustrated afterwards – that spoke volumes to me because it meant that Tereek did not see Artie as a burden but as an ordinary person who simply stumbled just like everyone else.

Human connections – that is what the film touches on.

Not DeafBlindness, not disability per se, but the most basic yet powerful way to connect to a person.

I loved that scene where Tereek stubbornly insisted on the uninterested bus driver to give an affirmative response on assisting Artie to his destination stop. In this world where my needs as a Deafblind person are often not understood, I know there will be people like Tereek who will always come forward to help regardless. This sort of connection coming from a stranger, beyond disability barriers, warms my heart.

Very heart-warming. Nothing can replace our innate human connections, be it a tap, or a hug. The world can be a better place if we take the time to show a little more understanding, be a little more patient.

But what really left an impact on me was that touching scene towards the ending, where Artie embraced Tereek in the bus before they parted.

 

Screengrab from the film, showing a scene where Artie hugged Tereez.

That moment of the realisation that we are all not alone in this world.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens, we still need each other. Everybody needs help and we all can help one another.

I strongly encourage you to catch this beautifully-connected film screening that will even warm the see hum* of your heart. You can still catch this Feeling Through Experience screening, which will air online in celebration of their 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this 16 July (Thursday), 4pm PT/7pm ET, which is 7am, this Friday 17 July, Singapore time, so do make sure to sign up (it’s free by the way) on this link: www.feelingthrough.com/register to catch it!

On accessibility and such

The registration for this online screening event was very simple which only required my name and email address. The organisers made arrangements for viewers who use a Braille display or need audio descriptions by providing a transcript via a livestream text. Wanting to experience it with everyone else, I did not read it prior to the screening. On the day of the screening, the transcript was well-presented with not only the dialogue but also very detailed descriptions that included background sounds as well as action; those detailed on what was going on. I was thus fully immersed in the film.

In retrospect, this film screening made me appreciate the provision of full access for people with diverse needs. A colourful and noisy world actually exists, not only for the sighted and hearing communities but also for me and all the Deafblind community.

That said, I was reminded of my own earlier experience of watching a theatre play, “Not In My Lifetime“. It was also fully accessible to me, with the help of live note-taking (post-show) and tactile touch tour including the tactile layout representation of the stage and set-up prior to the play.

I applaud the improvements of late in the local theatre scene where access is fully provided to the disabled audience through touch tours, audio descriptions and sign language interpretations. I wonder, for the Deafblind audience, would these local theatre & film companies make their transcripts readily available so that we would be able to enjoy the films and plays in real-time equally well just like others?
I look forward to that day.

*see hum refers to cockles in Hokkien dialect.

About the author:

Tan Siew Ling is fully Deafblind, having lost both her sight and hearing to a neurological condition, Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). She carries a screen reader with a Braille display, which she fondly names it as “Bear Bear”, everywhere she goes. Her humour, wordplay, and love of puns keep friends on their toes. She enjoys reading books in her free time and loves to pen down her thoughts, often on a whim, which can be entertaining at times, on her social media. When she is not writing or reading, she can be seen doing insanely 72kg leg presses or swinging a 20kg kettlebell to and fro.