The Sound Of Metal: Why An Oscar-Nominated Flim by Riz Ahmed shows us that deaf people do not need to be corrected

Sound Of Metal star Paul Raci and director Darius Marder before the release of Oscar-nominated film in the UK
It opens with a crescendo of a dark, sweaty gig, a mixture of vocal cords and feedback and clapping cymbals, before cutting until the morning silence.

From the beginning, Sound Of Metal makes you more aware of what you hear and see on screen; not only conversations but background that we hear every day but don’t pay much attention to.


There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the film – six Oscar nominations, BAFTA nods, and many of the critics’ awards that have won stars Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci – but it’s probably not your typical Hollywood prize money. Ahmed imitates Ruben, a punk-metal drummer and former drug addict who suddenly loses his hearing; Raki, like Joe, is a deaf veteran working in a home for deaf people.
Filmmaker and director Darius Marder worked for about 13 years to bring to the big screen and had to contend with the need for open captions, giving details of all the sounds and dialogue and which cannot be removed by the viewer


In a film about deafness, it seems strange to convince executives properly, but it tells you everything you need to know about Hollywood and the availability of people who can’t hear. It is strange and as for the listening audience, it only works to amplify the knowledge.
For Marder, his grandmother, Dorothy, became deaf later in life, it was impossible to communicate
This was not a popular idea, he said, speaking on a zoom phone. So many people have told me that I can’t sell the movie. ‘You can’t do that, no one is going to watch it, it’s going to ruin the movie’.
This film was dedicated to my grandmother. He was stuck between the culture of hearing and hearing, which he had no access to, and it really exposed him.


One of the biggest losses was cinema for him because there was no cinema access. In those days, there were no broadcast captions, no captions, but certainly no open captions for movies in theaters. He pleaded all his life for an open caption. I knew when I made this film that I had to open it with captions.
Art charity Stagetext, which provides live performances and captions live in theaters and cultural venues, says it has seen an increase in demand for online games after the UK’s first shutdown in March 2020. About one in five UK adults (18%) are deaf or hard of hearing, said, but less than 1% spoke sign language fluently.
In Sound Of Metal, as Ruben has to learn sign language life and lip-reading, captions initially disappear in some scenes; as he gets used to the talented world, so does the spectator.
You may, as a hearing person, feel, ‘What are these people doing there? I don’t want to see those ‘, or,’ I’m not used to seeing those, can we? ‘said Marder. [But] you’ll get used to [and] can actually promote your movie, even if you’re a hearing person. He really acts like a deaf or hard of hearing person.


When those captions are deleted, you can suddenly … like most people hear, like, ‘Wait a minute – what?’ Because we are not accustomed to missing out on everything. We don’t have to fight against that. But Reuben does. In many ways, the film comes with a powerful perspective. From that point of view, you have to use it and you have to deal with that actually [be] a minority.
Raci, whose parents are both deaf, is an expert in the deaf community. American Sign Language (ASL) is his first language, English second.
My father had a hearing loss at the age of six due to spinal meningitis, so he did not know the sound at all, he said, talking to News on a different phone. My mother became deaf when she was five years old, so she remembered the noise. He was talking and reading lips, much like Joe did in the movie.


I was way down the drain in the world of hearing [of my parents]. I could be in the middle of a car conversation or maybe a deposit, on the phone with a petrol company – ‘please don’t turn off the lights, something like that. I used to translate television for my father.
When the Beatles came out, my mother bought me a ticket for the first concert. He took me to a movie when I was nine years old; we saw Love Me Tender, playing the role of Elvis Presley and Richard Egan, and I sat there translating the entire text for my mother. So it’s been a different age, the children of deaf adults, CODA, have a different life now, but I’ve been through a lot of situations when I was a boy that was unusual. But, as I look back, it is a real blessing.


Marder says he refused to exclude anyone other than the custom of adding Joe’s role and rejected promises to meet the main characters… who might help pay for the film. Not only did he sign Raci, but he is also a Vietnamese veteran and, as the manager of the ASL Black Sabbath Sabbath group, Hands Of Doom, has a musical connection, too.
I wanted it to be true and I wanted it to respect the deaf community, Marder said. I’ve met some very good deaf people, but Joe as a character actually comes from a culture of hearing, he quickly heard. Raci had a deep connection with the character in many ways, he said

Both Marder and Raki are quick to compliment Ahmed, who studied ASL and how to play the drums for this role and wore hearing aids that produced a white sound to show off his character’s poor hearing.
I was really impressed with her dedication, how she put herself in sign language, the respect she showed for the culture, and everyone she met on set, said Raci.
He was determined to do something I think would take even seven months to learn ASL and learn ASL, Marder said. The real journey here was actually losing control
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