BlackRock Center for the Arts will screen the documentary Deaf Jam, directed by Judy Lieff, as part of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s On Screen/In Person program on Sunday, April 3 at 4:00 pm. In Deaf Jam, Aneta Brodski seizes the day. She is a deaf teen introduced to American Sign Language (ASL) Poetry, who then boldly enters the spoken word slam scene. In a wondrous twist, Aneta, an Israeli immigrant living in the Queens section of New York City, eventually meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two young women embark on a hearing/deaf collaboration, a performance duet that is a metaphor for the complex realities they share.
Deaf Jam is the final screening in the 2015-16 On Screen/In Person series at BlackRock.
Filmmaker Judy Lieff explores the beauty and power of American Sign Language poetry in Deaf Jam, the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word slam scene. Longing to explore and fully participate in the hearing world, Aneta dives into the vibrant three-dimensional art form of ASL poetry, where body movements convey meaning. There is no paper or text. Rhymes are measured in hand shapes and meter in movements. Images cut and dissolve as its verses transcend all spoken word.
Introduced to ASL Poetry at the Lexington School for the Deaf, Aneta, an Israeli immigrant high school student living in New York, welcomes the chance to perform with “spoken word” poets. With ties to rap and hip hop culture, the US National Poetry Slams for youth are widespread, but Aneta is among the first Deaf teens to brave that highly verbal arena.
Passionate, fearless and expressive, Aneta works hard at her craft and in a remarkable twist of fate, meets and then collaborates with Tahani — a hearing Palestinian slam poet. Poetry, friendship, and respect transcend politics as the two young women create a hearing/deaf duet —generating a new form of slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and the Deaf.
Utilizing high-energy music, animated graphic text and other innovative techniques, Deaf Jam illuminates ASL poetry’s extraordinary potency and power. It is a three dimensional language that exists, like dance, in space and utilizes cinematic concepts such as closeups, wide shots, cuts and dissolves. In the hands of a talented poet, shapes in relation to one another create the visually stunning equivalents of rhythm and rhyme.
Deaf Jam aims to revitalize this unique and endangered art form. Taking us inside a fascinating and vibrant world where self-expression and cultural identity are fiercely pursued, Deaf Jam may change the way we think about the non-hearing world forever. It provides a vehicle for empowering Deaf youth, and expands the social images of the Deaf community.
Tickets to see Deaf Jam and attend the post-screening discussion at BlackRock are just $5 and are on sale at the BlackRock Box Office, online at blackrockcenter.org, or over the phone by calling 240.912.1058.
Photo and video courtesy of Made by Hand LLC and BlackRock Center.