Sound and Fury is an engaging documentary about cochlear implants, a surgical ear implant that can give certain deaf people a wider range of hearing.
So, you think, what's the fuss? If an implant can make, particularly, a child able to hear, why would it court any controversy? Well, as the film shows it is a dicey issue. The documentary follows the Artinian family, of whom, the two eldest brothers, both with hearing parents, Peter is deaf and Chris is hearing. Peter and his wife, Nita, who is also deaf, have three children all of whom are deaf. Chris and his wife, Mari,
who is not deaf but has deaf parents, spawn a pair of twin boys, one of whom is deaf, the other is hearing. As Chris and Mari look into the benefits of getting a cochlear ear implant for their son, it raises a touchy issue. An issue compounded by the fact that Peter's four and a half year old daughter, Heather, begins to say that she would like a cochlear implant. So, those are the two sides, both intertwined. Chris and Mari Artinian: Chris with hearing parents and a deaf brother, Mari with deaf parents, wanting to give their infant an implant. His parents are supportive, whereas her parents see the deaf child as a blessing, something like them, something not to be ashamed of or change. Then you have Peter and Nita Artinian: Peter growing up alone, the only deaf person in a hearing family, now a successful, proud member of the deaf community, with a daughter that is, in the deaf communities eyes, requesting interest in straying from it. Of course, his hearing parents wholeheartedly support Heather getting an implant, whereas, the more Peter learns about it, the more he dismisses it.
What this documentary does, like any good documentary should, is fairly, subjectively present the issue with no clear one side is better opinion and, most of all, inform about something (no pun intended) I heard very little about previously. One of my good childhood friends mother was basically deaf, her hearing loss a gradual thing since childhood, so she was able to speak clearly and read lips, so I always knew deafness wasn't a total lack of hearing, but often a more muddy, subdued, muffled affect. But, I had never heard a simulation of deafness like Chris and Mari do in the movie and it was a revelation, like being underwater with heavy duty earplugs. I also did not know about deaf culture. It is a very proud society, with its own language and education, in effect though, very segregated from the hearing world. Since deafness limits communication so much, it seems the bond between deaf people and the subsequent lack of being able to communicate with hearing people, has built a wall and an "us and them" kind of separation. Because many deaf children with the implant use sign language as a falling back method when they have trouble with speech and writing, cochlear ear implant doctors suggest the children not be taught sign language, go to deaf schools, and so forth, so one can understand why it would frighten a deaf parent.
As the discussion becomes heated between the opposing sides of the family, Peter shunning of the implant for his daughter, his parents calling it "abusive" to not give Heather the chance, Chris supporting the implant for his child and Mari's deaf parents calling her a "lousy" mother for turning her son into a robot... well, as a viewer, I found myself flip-flopping over the issue, and even after the film ended, I was still wanting more information on the subject, a wealth of which can be found at PBS, which broadcast Sound and Fury http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/
It is a strange issue, the central motivation on both sides being fear. The fear of opportunities lost by a child being deaf, and the fear of losing an established, proud culture to technology. And, in the end it is even a bit deeper than a cultures possible extinction, but about choices and family.
Sound and Fury may not belong in the pantheon of emotionally powerful docs like Paradise Lost : The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills or as imaginative and fascinating as A Brief History of Time, but it is still an interesting subject, well represented, and thoughtful. It was also a nominee as Best documentary feature at the 2001 Academy Awards.
The DVD: Docudrama DVD, who have released title s like Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back and Ghengis Blues do a fine job, providing a good transfer and very adequate bonus features.
Picture- Filmed on video, I suppose it was never matted theatrically, we get a fine image, as fine as a square can be. For video, it looks nice with good sharpness, detail, and color.
Sound- English. I was surprised to find no subs, but, of course, the film is Close Captioned. It is a very average Dolby Digital Stereo, of course being a documentary it is not dynamic, but just what one needs it to be, clear and crisp. It should be noted that the deaf people in the film are dubbed by actors, a curious choice, but actually a very good one. The heated discussions and pacing of the film makes subtitles a bit too much, so despite some questionable acting inflections, the dubbing is excellent in capturing the intended nuances.
Extras- Director and Producers Bio- DVD Credits- About Docudrama Films section- Catalog of features, 16 total, five with trailers, including Dont Look Back, Genghis Blues, The Brandon Teena Story, and The Awful Truth- And, finally, Additional Footage and Interviews. Basically it is an alternate 20 min version, featuring some interviews with other deaf people not in the actual feature, and different versions of things we saw in the film. Docudrama is kind enough to note that his material is in a rougher form, which it is, but the effect is lessened because they are at least straightforward about it. As I said, it is a whole presentation, almost like a promotional cut. It was a great addition, adding more insight into the sides of deaf culture that the film touched upon.