Eye-opening documentary deaf jam opened Women filmmakers of Zimbabwe’s(WFOZ) 2014 IIFF IN THE CLUB screenings at the book cafe on January 29. Supported by the united states public affairs section (USPAS) this 2011 documentary, brought spoken word artists together with filmmakers in what might be a Zimbabwean first due to its content, causing such a crowd that the event had to be shifted to a larger room.
Eye-opening documentary deaf jam opened Women filmmakers of Zimbabwe’s(WFOZ) 2014 IIFF IN THE CLUB screenings at the book cafe on January 29. Supported by the United States public affairs section (USPAS) this 2011 documentary, brought spoken word artists together with filmmakers in what might be a Zimbabwean first due to its content, causing such a crowd that the event had to be shifted to a larger room.
The audience watched intently as the story of young deaf people competing in spoken word events in american sign language (ASL) unfolded. The physical nature of the sign language was wonderfully captured by director, former dancer Judy Lieff, in a rhythm of movement that held together the pace of the film.
The moment the credits started to roll a lively dscussion ensued. Points of interest were the differences between ASL, Zimbabwean sign language and other sign languages used globally. The documentary inspired Zimbabwean filmmakers to realise that physical challenge does not necessarily hinder expression.
DEAF JAM has won multiple awards in the United States, Europe and Asia. Watching it you immediately understand why Lieff incorporates high energy music dance, ASL poetry and Spoken word and the effect is amazing. The protagonist, Anita Brodski is a young Israeli teenager who teams up with Tahari, a Palestinian slam poet. Together the girls come up with with a new form of slam poetry that appeals to both the hearing and the deaf. The film captures their poetry in a way that is thoughtful and mind provoking. One girl talks about her experiences as a deaf teenager in New York and the other about being viewed as a terrorist simply because of her cultural background. Together they make poetry that speaks as one voice.
Following the film screening local filmmakers met with Judy Lieff and fellow film professional Claire Aguilar, who visited WFOZ on the 5th of February. Leiff talked about her experiences whilst making DEAF JAM and about the experimental genre. She stressed that women need to carve a niche in the industry by exploring new angles. It was interesting to note that the visiting filmmakers shared similar experiences with Zimbabwean women who are involved in the film industry. Women have been confined to traditionally femeinine roles in film and have little to the significant and important jobs in the industry. It was also noted there is also a lack of female authored narratives even when the films are about women. According to Lieff, women in Hollywood are still struggling with this situation as well.
Aguilar is a curator for the Independent Lens Series, a series of independent programming on Public Broadcasting Services(PBS). She brought to local filmmakers many insights into fundraising and distribution of documentary films, particularly with respect to women’s films.
WFOZ is gratefull to the US PAS for making the screening and the visit possible and we hope for more cooperation in the future. IIFF in the Club is held every first Wednesday of the month at the Book Cafe at 1800hrs.