d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Arrival
Arrival

Despite over eleven million people in the United Kingdom identifying as deaf or hard of hearing, cinema is sorely lacking representation when it comes to these audiences, especially in terms of young people who do not see themselves or their life experiences represented on screen nearly often enough.

The filmmakers within this list may not be deaf themselves but they are interacting with new ways of storytelling and attempting to understand a different way of living. Not all of the films that we have highlighted here have deaf characters or tell deaf stories, but they all contain themes of communication and can teach us about how humans interact with each other and the world around them.

The Good Dinosaur

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration101 mins

The Good Dinosaur(2015)

Prehistoric adventure about a lost young dinosaur who must have the courage to face his fears and find his way home.

One of Pixar animation studio’s lesser-known films and containing very little dialogue, The Good Dinosaur is a colourful, audience-friendly tale of a blossoming friendship between a young boy and a dinosaur who band together through a shared goal. Despite not being able to communicate through speech, they nevertheless find a common ground of understanding throughout the film.

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The Miracle Worker

CertPG

Age group11–16

Duration102 mins

The Miracle Worker(1962)

Adaptation of William Gibson's inspirational play about Helen Keller, who became blind, deaf and mute at 18 months old, and was taught sign language.

Helen Keller is an important figure in history, an icon for blind and deaf people as well as sign language users around the world. This film however, nominated for five Academy Awards® in 1962, shows the personal moments that also made Helen a smart, funny human being too. Her story and the aftershocks of her abilities are put into focus in this heart-warming drama.

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration115 mins

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial(1982)

A young boy befriends an alien that has crash landed in his garden and resolves to help his new friend get back to his home planet.

Often seen as a sci-fi adventure about kindness and friendship, there are other layers to this extraordinary classic. Elliot and E.T.’s relationship is hindered as they are unable to communicate through speech so they turn to other methods in order to support each other’s goals. A wonderful starting point to teach students about the importance of non-verbal communication.

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The Kid

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration50 mins

The Kid(1921)

A misunderstood homeless man takes an abandoned orphan under his wing, as they grow together and undertake a series of scams.

Working in an era where films had no sound at all, the great comedian Charlie Chaplin got his emotions across in a different way to audiences during cinema’s early years. In this moving (but hilarious) tale of hope and resilience, his expressive features tell a story without the use of the spoken word, a skill that still resonates with young audiences even 100 years later.

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Steamboat Bill, Jr.

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration66 mins

Steamboat Bill, Jr.(1928)

Silent comedy starring Buster Keaton as the son of a steamboat captain who tries to teach him his trade, without much luck...

Buster Keaton was one of the biggest film stars of the silent era. Known for his stunt work, he told stories in ways that would be spectacular in modern times – this film contains the iconic sequence of an entire house falling down and narrowly missing Keaton, a moment which thrills even today. Keaton’s unique and expressive face is sure to be a hit for audiences of any age.

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R.I.S.E Pathfinder

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration10 mins

R.I.S.E Pathfinder(2018)

A robot astronaut is tasked by his human inventors to measure the distance from Earth to the end of the universe.

Stop-motion animation is often told without any dialogue because there is so much a filmmaker can do using this style. Expressions, non-verbal noises, body language – all of these things can be shaped to the tiniest detail in order to tell a story. In this wonderful science fiction short, communication and empathy take centre stage.

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Arrival

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration116 mins

Arrival(2016)

An alien spacecraft lands on Earth, leading the military to recruit an expert linguist to try and gauge if they come in peace.

Arrival is such an interesting film for d/Deaf audiences because Louise, the main character of the film, is a linguist faced with the challenge of interpreting a new language, one where words have no power. The difficulties that she faces in communicating with the aliens that suddenly appear on earth reflect the world’s misunderstandings of sign language and human connection.

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The Artist

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration97 mins

The Artist(2011)

Ingenious and heartfelt homage to silent era cinema.

A throwback to the films of the silent era, The Artist captured the nostalgia and appetite that audiences around the world have for silent film, eventually winning the Academy Award® for Best Picture in 2012. This endearing and often incredibly inventive story proves that even modern day audiences do not need dialogue in order to appreciate a well-told, entertaining story.

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A Silent Voice

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration130 mins

A Silent Voice(2016)

A poignant, heartfelt anime about a young deaf girl who moves to a new school and is bullied by her classmates.

Films with deaf characters in lead roles have never been easy to discover but in Japanese anime A Silent Voice, there is a concerted effort to make sure that Shoko, the new girl at school who happens to be deaf, is not defined by her inability to hear. Her strong presence alongside characters who are not “good” or “evil” make this a landmark film in deaf representation.

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A Quiet Place

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration90 mins

A Quiet Place(2018)

After the world is invaded by creatures who sense their prey by sound alone, a family of four must remain completely silent in order to survive.

Horror films often toy with the idea of taking away a person’s ability to see or hear in order to leave them more vulnerable but A Quiet Place turns that idea on its head, instead showing how a person’s disability can become a strength. The family at the heart of this film have managed to survive due to the presence of their deaf daughter who they talk to using sign language.

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La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family)

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration101 mins

La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family) (2014)

French comedy about a girl with an amazing singing voice who, in order to pursue her talents, must move away from her deaf parents who rely on her.

Winner of a number of awards at the Césars, France’s equivalent to the Oscars®, this French drama is an ethical tale that examines the relationships in families when deafness is involved. Thoughtful and heartfelt, The Belier Family is not afraid to ask difficult questions and is sure to start debates in the classroom around responsibility, commitment and finding your voice.

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Isle of Dogs

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration101 mins

Isle of Dogs(2018)

Stop-motion animation in which a young boy tries to find his lost dog on an island entirely populated by canines, following an outbreak of ‘dog flu’.

Told in a unique animated style, this is a film about the relationship between a boy and his dog, prejudice and how cultures can clash in both positive and negative ways. In typically quirky style director Wes Anderson tell his story through more than the spoken word. Illustrations, sketches in sand, traditional Japanese theatre all contribute to a unique but accessible vision.

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