In Search of Real Commitment to Deaf Talent: Filmmaking with Teresa Garratty

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Guest Editor Sandra Alland introduces a showcase of BSL short films by Teresa Garratty.

Teresa Garratty is a filmmaker and photographer, as well as a self-described ‘full-time cynic’. She has written and directed three short films: The Quiet Ones (2015), which was funded as the winner of Deaffest’s Ben Steiner Bursary; Admit None (2011); and Almost (2019). The latter two are featured on BSL Zone and linked here.

As with Garratty’s journalism, the tone of her films is often a bit of bleakness mixed with a lot of hilarity. Her characters are well-written and well-cast, and she has a flare for deadpan comic detail. In Admit None, Garratty turns the frustrating experience of subtitles not working at the cinema into fine comedy. Deaf office worker Tim (Kevin Xirum) has a date with a hearing man, so asks his deaf co-worker Lucy (Genevieve Barr) to accompany him as lipreader. When things go wrong, the friends end up in a surreal and delightful search for justice.

A still from Teresa Garratty's film, Admit None. A white cinema usher wearing a burgundy bellhop-like uniform and hat, with black curly hair on the sides of his head, leans in to two customers. A white woman is to the right of the frame, facing the usher and away from the camera, wearing a white blouse. To the left of the usher is a mixed-race Asian man with short black hair and a slight quiff. The man wears grey-blue glasses, a salmon pink cardigan and teal top. He is wincing at the usher. The subtitle of the usher reads: 'Anyway, it looks like you'll have to find the manager.'

Click the image to view the film on BSL Zone. Still from the film ‘Admit None’. Photo credit: BSLBT.

One of Garratty’s passions is authentic deaf representation on film. On Limping Chicken, she writes:

‘Take the acting world for example, how many times have we seen able-bodied actors taking on the roles of deaf characters to “raise awareness”? Want to know what would really make people aware? How about the audience actually see some deaf people on the big screen? …I’m always very wary of people who suddenly want to highlight the plight of deaf people by writing a story with one minor deaf character, hiring a fully hearing film crew and then sneaking in a cheeky lead role for themselves.’

Though Garratty’s other films feature queer deaf characters, Almost is BSLBT’s first LGBTQIA+ drama. Winner of the ‘Favourite Alternate Abilities Award’ at Film Only Film Festival 2020, the film follows the story of an electric chance encounter between two deaf women (Vilma Jackson & Rose Ayling-Ellis). Written and directed by Garratty, Almost is ‘a brief insight into the common ground we find between being deaf and LGBT+, but also the differences we let come between us’.

Film still showing two young women interacting in a library. The first is black with long braided hair wearing dungarees. The other is white with blonde hair, wearing an orange jumper and a backpack. The black woman holds a phone out, and they stare at each other instensely.

Click the image to view the film on BSL Zone. Production still from the film ‘Almost’. Photo credit: Samuel Dore for BSLBT.

As is evident from these two examples, Garratty’s films feature deaf and queer actors. But she’s also passionate about making sure deaf people are in charge of writing and filming their own stories. She’s concerned that access and inclusion don’t become just scene decoration, but instead a legitimate commitment to the deaf community:

‘Are you really including sign language in your play because you believe in the fight against language deprivation, or does it just look good on your Arts Council England application? Are you really providing work for deaf professionals who struggle to find opportunities, or are you letting your boyfriend/girlfriend/BFF/neighbour’s cat have the work instead?’

 

You can find more of Teresa’s Garratty’s work on her website.
Teresa Garratty’s Twitter is @TGarratty.


Sandra Alland bio (audio):

Sandra Alland bio (text).


Sandra Alland is guest editor at DAO from 25th March to 26th April. Check out all San’s commissioned pieces on their Project page. Audio versions of all pieces can be found on San’s dedicated SoundCloud channel.