Hot Docs 2021 #11: Short(ish) & Sweet

There are plenty of big, high-profile films screening at Hot Docs that are getting a lot of attention and buzz, but one of my favourite things about this festival is inadvertently stumbling upon comparatively “small” hidden gems that seem to be flying under many people’s radar.

That was the case with Only I Can Hear (6/8), a lovely little mid-length doc directed by Irai Matsui and Heath Cozens. Charming, moving and featuring a highly effective use of fairly minimalist music to punctuate moments perfectly, the film introduces audiences to four young women from across the U.S., who are all CODAs – (hearing) children of deaf adults. Three are teens navigating the already challenging world of high school (one of whom is the first hearing person born in five generations on her mother’s side); the fourth is a pregnant ASL translator wondering whether she’ll soon be the parent to a deaf child. All of the subjects find community and kinship at a 12-day “CODA camp,” where they and others just like them can share the challenges they face straddling the puzzling territory between signing and speaking, silence and sound, and the hearing world and the deaf world… often feeling like they don’t quite fit into either. Heartfelt and introspective, the doc is fittingly quiet in tone and content, and makes for a nice cinematic respite among flashier fest fare.

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