One of the recent short films to appear in the LA Shorts Film Festival, CODA, focuses on a young dancer who is born to deaf parents. The writer/director of the film, Erika Davis-Marsh, film and television director who recently graduated with her MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California. She was a finalist for the competitive 2016 Television Academy Foundation’s Episodic Directing Internship. I had the opportunity to check out this film and wanted to share my thoughts on this inclusive work.
Not only does this short film have a diverse cast, but it also features deaf actors, Ryan Lane (Switched at Birth), CJ Jones (Baby Driver) and Antoinette Abbamonte (Switched at Birth). The focus on the film is, as previously noted, a young dancer who was born to two deaf parents. As someone hearing born into a deaf family she has struggled with existing in both of these cultures. When she meets a young deaf drummer she finds herself examining her previous conflicted feelings about her life. CODA also introduces Kerrynton Jones and features choreography from Tyce Diorio from So You Think You Can Dance.During production four American Sign Language interpreters were on set to ensure fluid communication for everyone involved.
CODA is a beautiful examination of culture and identity. The lead character struggles to find her place, feeling not exactly like part of the hearing or the deaf community. As someone raised in a deaf household she is fluent in sign and when she attends a deaf night at a bar chooses to not identify as hearing when speaking with a man there. Moving between her adulthood and childhood we see moments of her parents trying to ensure they treat their two children, another child is shown who is presumably deaf, equally. Her attempt to connect with people at a young age shows a divide between the world outside of her home and what she is like with her family. I was captivated throughout by this touching and interesting story. The film also includes open captioning for the benefit of anyone watching. It is something that I have never seen represented in media before and if you can find a way to watch it you absolutely need to.