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A deaf Jewish teen from Queens finds her voice as a young American Sign Language poet in “Deaf Jam,” a low-budget, high-energy docu from newbie helmer Judy Lieff. Though the 70-minute film, shot over several school terms, is somewhat shapeless, the infectious zest for life of subject Aneta Brodski keeps things together. A late-in-the-game artistic collaboration with a young, non-deaf Palestinian slam poetess dilutes the pic’s focus but adds an unexpected sociopolitical slant that should further pique aud curiosity. Already picked up by PBS, this accessible “Jam” could also work at docu and regional fests.

Israeli-born Brodski is an adolescent like many others in the U.S., except that she’s hearing-impaired and doesn’t have an American passport. She attends Lexington School for the Deaf, where Lieff follows her during ASL poetry improv workshops, and the fierce, good-humored protag stands out from the start. ASL poetry relies heavily on visuals and movement, and Lieff’s film follows suit, with lensing on a variety of digital formats, colorful tech wizardry and fast-paced cutting. A hip soundtrack further adds to the pic’s street cred for hearing auds.

Deaf Jam

  • Production: A Made-By-Hand production, in association with ITVS. Produced by Judy Lieff. Executive producer, Sally Jo Fifer. Co-producer, Steve Zeitlin. Directed, written by Judy Lieff.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV-/Mini-DV-/Digital 8-to-DigiBeta), Claudia Raschke-Robinson, Melissa Donavan; editor, Keiko Deguchi; music, Ian Miller, Tom Paul. Reviewed at Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival (Music), March 13, 2011. Running time: 70 MIN.
  • With: With: Aneta Brodski, Tahani Salah, Peter Cook, Manny Hernandez, Terrylene Sacchetti, Bob Holman.