La Famille Bélier / The Bélier Family

The French film, “La Famille Bélier” (The Bélier Family) is apparently being boycotted. Why? One may ask.

Here is a couple of (quoted) paragraphs from the source to give you an insight;

“The film uses hearing actors to play the roles of deaf characters, the result of which is an embarrassing and crass interpretation of deaf culture and sign language. Make no mistake, this is like blacking up for the Black and White Minstrel Show. Couldn’t find any deaf actors? Just get some hearing ones to wave their hands about. It shows a level of disrespect for deaf people and disregard for a genuine language with the nuances of any spoken language. In the UK there is a pool of experienced deaf actors and sign language interpreters. If the same exist in France, shouldn’t the makers of Le Famille Bélier have called upon them? And if they don’t exist, we should be asking why not.

Deaf people’s culture and experiences have long been appropriated for the fascination and entertainment of others, and in the process kneaded into a bastardisation bearing no resemblance to real-life experiences, because it is rare that deaf people are actually involved in the production process. Accurate representation of deafness is a good thing, it can entertain and educate in equal measures – but films and TV shows about deaf characters, told through a hearing lens, using hearing actors with pidgin sign language, are demeaning, depressing and cause more damage then good.

My initial reaction after reading through it all was to think objectively (as always) and responded to several links of the source (as written by Rebecca Atkinson of The Guardian) which is being widely publically shared hence my now, very public thought on this topic.

When the casting team find an actor or actress who happens to be deaf and experienced enough to play the part satisfactorily then they may sign them. Just like with the Olympics, if athletes meet the standards they then qualify to compete. The very same qualification process applies to deaf sportspeople too.

I do not see why (deaf) people seem to keep spitting their dummies out all the time – has any deaf people actually auditioned for the part?? Some are dubious as to whether they actively sought deaf actors out for the part but nonetheless I am sure they advertised and did their research as all films and actors do as that is their job and one would hope they fulfilled the requirements.

It is being portrayed overall as an insult to the deaf community when this does not mean it is the general consensus of the whole yet very diverse deaf community but individual interpretations based on personal experiences and emotions which are most likely reactions upon impulse. Just because some people are boycotting this film whilst encouraging others to do the same, does not mean everyone else needs to follow suit.

 “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

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2 thoughts on “La Famille Bélier / The Bélier Family

  1. Deaf can’t act? You had best not tell that to Marlee Matlin (Oscar winner), Sean Berdy (recipient of several acting awards), Katie Le Clerc et al.

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