The little girl that is the leading actress in this short drama attends school just near my home. In fact my son was in her year group (before he changed schools… for a reason unrelated). I remember when he started I asked if he would be in the same class as her as I knew then he would then get to learn sign language. They have many deaf children attend the school and many of the hearing children learn sign language. I remember attending a meeting for new parents and seeing Maisie with her parents and there being an interpreter signing everything the teachers said. When I came to see them perform the nativity all the children signed as they sang the songs. I was impressed.
The Silent Child was well deserving of it’s Oscar. It is a powerful short that highlights the challenges a deaf child has living in a modern world. The little girl called Libby doesn’t know how to sign and is encouraged to lip read, but lives in a home where everyone is older than her and they are all leading busy lives. The Mum calls out to her “goodbye” as she is leaving not even thinking that as her daughter is upstairs and cannot see her, she doesn’t know what her mother has said. People are looking at smart phones and rushing around. There is a scene where Libby is sat at the dinner table with everyone talking and the sound is cut and you see the scene through her silent experience.
A social worker comes to the home to help prepare Libby for school and teaches her sign language. She sees for herself that the family are not supportive of her and don’t try to communicate effectively with her. She also learns that they have low expectations of what she will amount to and even that she is illigitimate, which may explain how they treat her. It is a deeply sad story, and one that takes place in a wealthy home, not even in a case of poverty or neglect.
The film won the oscar for best live action short. Rachel Shenton who made The Silent Child was only 12 when her father lost his hearing from chemotherapy, she learnt BSL and got involved in the deaf community. The screenplay was her first ever screen play and it was directed by her Fiancee. Both had met while acting in Hollyoaks. They funded the film through bake sales! Rachel’s Oscar acceptance speech was powerful. She signed her speech and said how there are deaf children all over the world that are unable to communicate, living in silence.
I highly recommend giving this 20 minute film a watch. It pulls at the heart strings and gives great awareness to the deaf community.