×

See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary

An outstanding documentary exploration of the travails of four deaf entertainers.

With:
With: Robert DeMayo, TL Forsberg, Bob Hiltermann, CJ Jones.

An outstanding documentary exploration of the travails of four deaf entertainers, Hilari Scarl’s “See What I’m Saying” provides a glimpse into a performance circuit that few hearing-enabled Americans likely realize exists. Rather than a disability, deafness begins to seem almost an entry fee into a singular subculture with celebrities, traditions and prejudices all its own, and this community’s actors and artists face troubles that are both familiar and fascinatingly strange. Well-made docu should have little difficulty finding a receptive audience at fests and on homevid.

Flying along with a snappy pace and sharp comic timing, the film follows four highly distinctive performers. Standup comic CJ Jones is a major figure on the deaf entertainment circuit but can’t get arrested at mainstream comedy festivals; Robert DeMayo is an HIV-positive actor who sometimes sleeps on park benches in between teaching classes at Juilliard; Bob Hiltermann is a wild-man drummer for all-deaf rock band Beethoven’s Nightmare; and TL Forsberg is an Amy Lee-style singer and actress who feels ostracized from the community due to being only “hard of hearing.”

Their travails are often revelatory, and the notion that some hearing-impaired people are seen as “not deaf enough” seems particularly twisted, with Forsberg criticized by a purist after performing in “Children of a Lesser God.” Comic Jones is also fascinating to watch; although his jokes (like all the film’s dialogue) are subtitled, it’s obvious that the heart of his comedy is in the timing of his sign language.

The film has moments of hysterical humor — an attempted signed exchange about the Beatles and the British Invasion ends up translating as “roach infestation” — and a climactic Beethoven’s Nightmare concert at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theater (their first in a big-time venue) is understatedly triumphant. Technical contributions are all effective, though particular plaudits must go to the film’s astute editing and, ironically, a charming musical score.

See What I'm Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary

Production: A Wordplay release. Produced, directed by Hilari Scarl. Camera (color), Jeff Gatesman; editors, Marcus Taylor, Morgan R. Smith; music, Kubilay Uner; music supervisor, Mason Cooper; supervising sound editor, Joe Milner. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, March 18, 2010. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Robert DeMayo, TL Forsberg, Bob Hiltermann, CJ Jones.

More Film

  • Gabrielle Union Marketing Summit

    Listen: How Gabrielle Union Bet on Herself and Changed Her Brand

    Actress Gabrielle Union said she was nearly 17 years past the expiration date of her mass appeal when she got the brand partnership of her dreams. “They tell you that after 26, ‘Honey, hang it up,'” Union said on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” The episode was recorded during a keynote [...]

  • HanWay Films Boards Takashi Miike’s ‘First

    HanWay Films Boards Takashi Miike’s Cannes-Bound ‘First Love’

    HanWay Films has boarded sales on Takashi Miike’s “First Love,” which has been selected for Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. HanWay has worldwide rights excluding Asia. Jeremy Thomas’ Recorded Picture Company is re-teaming with Miike on the picture, which will have its world premiere in Cannes. The film marks the fourth collaboration between the prolific Japanese [...]

  • Newport Film Festival Honorees 2019

    Newport Beach Film Festival Honors Five Artists, Kicks Off With Sundance Hit 'Luce'

    The Newport Beach Film Festival, which kicks off April 24 and continues through April 27, will honor five talented artists who will be on hand to accept their awards. The event kicks off opening night with the West Coast premiere of Sundance indie hit “Luce,” a provocative racial drama from director Julius Onah starring Naomi [...]

  • Newport Beach Film Festival Illustration

    Newport Beach Film Festival Gathers a Global Following

    Now celebrating a landmark 20th year, the Newport Beach Film Festival, which runs April 25-May 2, has become a major fixture on the crowded festival circuit and is increasingly recognized internationally as one of the leading lifestyle film fests in the U.S. This year it will spotlight more than 350 films from some 55 countries, [...]

  • Photographer: Guy Godfree. In shot: Zoey

    Tribeca Film Festival: 9 Movies to Watch

    The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday with a slate of movies from up-and-coming filmmakers and established directors that tackle hot-button issues such as gun violence, homophobia, and gender discrimination. The annual celebration of film was originally founded by Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal to encourage people to return to a corner [...]

  • Tribeca Film Festival'Venus in Fur' film

    Tribeca Film Festival: 10 Music Docs We’re Excited to See

    While the Tribeca Film Festival usually has strong music entries, this year has such a bounty that narrowing our top picks down to 10 was a challenge. This year’s offerings range from documentaries on the legendary Apollo Theater, the Wu-Tang Clan and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman to music-adjacent films like Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” (about [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Robert Iger's Pay 'Naked Indecency' in Op-Ed

    After stirring a flurry of reactions over her Tweets calling out wage inequality at the Walt Disney Co. on Sunday, Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and philanthropist who is the grand niece of Walt Disney, penned an opinion column outlining her arguments against Disney’s pay practices. In her op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content