Volume 28, Number 4, Winter 2006

Get a Sneak Preview of a Major PBS Documentary: Through Deaf Eyes to be Screened During ALA Midwinter Meeting

By Dewey Blanton, August, Lang & Husak

Attendees at the ALA Mid-Winter Meeting in Seattle will have the opportunity to get a sneak peek at an important new PBS documentary. Clips from Through Deaf Eyes will be presented on Saturday, January 20 at 6:30 P.M. in the Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth St. The hosts for the event are LEAP (Library Equal Access Program) and the Video Round Table of the ALA. The event is open to the public.

Through Deaf Eyes is a two-hour HDTV documentary for PBS exploring two hundred years of deaf life in America. The film presents the shared experiences of American life ? family, education, work, sports and technology ? from the perspective of deaf citizens. Interviews include Gallaudet University president I. King Jordan and actors Marlee Matlin and Bernard Bragg. At the film’s heart are six artistic works by deaf artists and filmmakers. Poignant, sometimes humorous, these films draw on the media artists’ own lives and are woven throughout the documentary. But the core of the film remains the larger story of deaf life in America ? a story of conflict, prejudice and affirmation that reaches the heart of what it means to be human.

Slated to air nationally on PBS Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 9 P.M. (EST), Through Deaf Eyes will also feature a comprehensive Web site, an interactive DVD and a companion book. Extensive educational outreach is planned to coincide with the national broadcast, encompassing both an Educator’s Guide and a Viewer’s Guide that will serve to engage community-based organizations and schools to further explore the film’s subject. In addition, a coalition including the National Association for the Deaf, Gallaudet University and California State University-Northridge, more than fifty national organizations and their local affiliates and members and public television stations nationwide will disseminate educational materials and encourage participation in the outreach campaign. The outreach partners for the project include the National Association for the Deaf, Gallaudet University, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology, and California State University-Northridge.

The Web site promises to be an effective tool in extending the reach of the project. The Through Deaf Eyes Web site* will present perspectives on deaf lives; visual and performing arts in the deaf community; and will allow for further exploration of the history presented in the film. Supporting materials, including the Educator’s Guide and the Viewer’s Guide, will be available for download from the site. The specially commissioned deaf filmmakers’ work, as well as interviews with the filmmakers themselves, are to be featured on the site and on the interactive DVD. The Web site and DVD will incorporate a variety of access features, including talking menus, Braille transcripts, and ASL and English translations.

A further extension of the site enables viewers to submit their own personal deaf history through the Gallaudet University Web site, which will be linked to the Through Deaf Eyes site. These stories, films and photos will be collected at the Gallaudet University Archive.

Working closely with the Friends of Libraries for Deaf Action (FOLDA) network, the project will be part of the Deaf History Month toolkit made available by the ALA.

Through Deaf Eyes is a production of WETA Washington, D.C. and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, in association with Gallaudet University. Harry Lang consulted on the film. The producer is Emmy-award winner Larry Hott. Members of the production team will be present for the screening and will take questions from the audience.

Senior Advisor to Through Deaf Eyes is Harry G. Lang, Professor in the Department of Research and Teacher Education at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology. Professor Lang has written extensively on education and Deaf studies.

Major funding for Through Deaf Eyes is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, Annenberg Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Outreach is funded in part by Sign Language Associates.

For more information, contact Dewey Blanton, August, Lang & Husak, at (301) 657-2772.

* The Through Deaf Eyes Web site will be available in early March, 2007.