US-based Puneite Vidyut Latay’s documentary on understanding the perspective of hearing-impaired persons in Mumbai is being screened in the short film category at the Cannes Film Festival till May 25 this year .
A country with a population of over a billion people, India lacks the basic infrastructure and social consciousness to accommodate the ‘voices’ of hearing impaired people. ‘Beyond Silence’ is 15-minute film based on the lives of hearing impaired people and is a celebration of life along with the challenges faced by them. It tries to explore and bring about self-confidence and belief among deaf people.
Nowhere does the film depict the lives of deaf people as people with disabilities, but on the contrary, it questions and argues about concepts and ideas about ‘being handicapped’.
Latay currently works as the executive director of ‘Filmmakers Alliance’ in Los Angeles. The organisation is a community of film artists dedicated to the advancement of true independent films through community action. Latay did her Masters in Communication Studies from University of Pune and then worked under various production houses in Mumbai.
“While studying in San Francisco, I saw an interpreter using sign language to interpret an address by the president of the university to a gathering of students. In all my years of living in India, I had never witnessed any scene like that. The experience was truly new and intriguing to me. I was a bit disturbed and very inquisitive at the same time to know more about why India had no acknowledgement of this language and the community called DEAF. That was one of the trigger points to take up this topic” said Latay.
Latay added that shooting a film about the deaf community in Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, was in itself an interesting paradox for her.
“I was keen to explore their life ‘Beyond Silence’ amidst the ‘noise’ all around,” she said.
Beyond Silence is a documentary made with an intention of understanding these hidden voices in their own ‘words, language, and culture’. The film is a humble attempt to acknowledge the existence of a living, competent, and thinking deaf community that has the ability to communicate ‘beyond silence’.
“I hope exhibition of this documentary helps the deaf community in India to strengthen their fight for their basic rights, like the recognition and adoption of sign language in schools and in the community at large; awareness about deaf culture and motivating the entertainment media in the country to adopt captioning. I have a feature length documentary on the same subject in post-production at the moment. This documentary would be one of India’s first feature documentaries on deaf people and I have plans to show it in India next year,” Latay said.