16 June 2011
Previewed by Melissa Mostyn-Thomas
Expletives are not my usual stock-in-trade, but the Deaffest 2011 premiere of The End - Ted Evans’ chilling follow-up to G.A. - had me struggling for a better superlative with which to express my awe. "That was just so f-ing brilliant," I told my husband afterwards. “Just f-ing brilliant.”
After watching it on TV this week, you may find yourself doing exactly the same. A 24-minute docu-drama that turns the seminal Up TV series blueprint on its head, The End opens a mini-season of one-off shorts produced by Neath Films in association with BSLBT; it’s part of Zoom Focus, a scheme that enables Deaf film-makers to build on the success of their Zoom film debuts the previous year.
A flaw of many film and TV previews is that they give away too much of the plot. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit doing the same, but the particular challenge that The End presents is that the clue is in the title.
Over a period of 60 years, starting in 1987, four deaf and hard-of-hearing people – Arron, Sophia, Mohammed and Luke – become subject to the offer of a new ‘treatment’ that will cure their deafness. As they grow up, they make decisions based on their psychological, emotional and cultural make-up – and become part of a devastating blow for the Deaf community.
Arron, initially a jug-eared nine-year-old who wants to be the first Deaf policeman, is totally against the treatment; Sophia, a pretty, confident blonde, isn’t so sure. Both Mohammed, offspring of a hearing family, and Luke - played as a neurotic young adult by Alex Nowak with utter conviction - are all for it, but the impact on their lives differs wildly.
A number of scenes are punctuated with black irony that - in an age when disability hate crime is rising - will make your blood run cold, while there’s a wonderful black and white montage of Deaf protestors chanting in BSL against a brick wall as if promoting a rap single. Intercutting such scenes are vox-pops with ‘experts’ that will have you questioning the motives of organisations that purport to remove the stigma of deafness.
"We’re not forcing the treatment on people," asserts one corporate executive, "but we are saying their lives would be considerably better off." Regardless of what he says next, however, his politician-speak betrays a far more apocalyptic message than that.
Picking out what makes The End such an adept and engrossing drama is near-impossible. Top-notch acting from Nowak, Terry Edwards and Bran Duffy aside, the high production values are only part of the story; the fact that it was made with just £4,000 of BSLBT money, plus in-kind production support, makes the achievement of its ambitious premise all the more stunning.
The End is more than a study in the potential effects of a cure for deafness. Perhaps more acutely than any other contemporary Deaf film, it also presents Deaf Culture as something tangible – a commodity that can strive only as part of a Deaf community that is not afraid to assert their linguistic and cultural minority status.
As a horrifically close-to-the-bone vision of how the future could look for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, nothing does it quite like The End. Watch it or regret it.
The End is a terrifying vision of the living end that we could all face. Watch it or regret it! The End can be viewed at the following times: Monday 20th June 8.45am, Film4; Tuesday 21st June 2pm, Thursday 23rd June 7.30pm and Saturday 25th June 7.30am, the Community Channel; and all week on the BSLBT website.
To see more of Ted Evans films on vimeo go to www.vimeo.com/tedevans