BEN FINLY – Associated Press
When CODA won Oscar for Best Picture in Los Angeles, movie stars from Samuel L. Jackson to Nicole Kidman waved their hands instead of clapping their hands in recognition of the deaf community. At home in the suburbs of New York, Lori Ann Berish cried, overwhelmed by what she said was a long-overdue sense of acceptance.
Like the film’s acronym, Barysh was raised by a deaf father, her mother, who is now 85 years old. She said she saw her own life in a story about a family from Massachusetts, “who wants to be heard” and not to be distinguished from everyone else.
“The world of the deaf is finally on,” said Barysh, a 61-year-old personal assistant who lives in Long Beach, New York. “I wish it had happened when I was younger, for my mom. It was a wonderful gift. It was for the world to see that we are all the same. We are all the same.
“CODA” is a gentle, old tale about the only hearing member of the deaf family who became popular with the crowd and received widespread acclaim from critics for becoming the first film with predominantly deaf actors to win best film. It stars a trio of deaf actors, while offering a true portrayal of the lives of the deaf. For many in this community, the Oscars provide an unprecedented sense of affirmation while providing a measure of Hollywood’s recent progress.
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“CODA was the first film that allowed the deaf to be normal, hard-working people trying to start a family and navigate the world,” said William Milios, who is deaf and works in freelance videography and web development in Montpellier, Vermont.
“It showed their very real frustrations, without turning them into miserable objects that needed to be saved,” the 56-year-old man added.
The film won two more Oscars. Troy Kotsur became the best supporting actor to become the first deaf actor to win an Oscar, and only the second deaf actor to do so by joining his CODA colleague Marley Matlin. The film also won the Best Adapted Screenplay.
Howard A. Rosenblum, director general of the National Association of the Deaf, said the Oscars show that “excellence is about convincingly and powerfully conveying history, not acting with a disability.”
“For too long, the industry has been rewarding actors and directors who used the falsification of sympathetic disabled people to get rewards for themselves without attracting deaf people or people with disabilities to ensure authenticity,” Rosenblum said.
The film’s three actors, including Kotsur, have ties to the University of Golade, which serves deaf and hard of hearing students. There was a palpable sense of admiration on Monday at the Washington campus, said Robert B. Weinstock, a spokesman for the university.
Weinstock said it finally feels like the film industry recognizes people in the deaf community. And he hopes there will be more job opportunities in the performing arts and elsewhere.
“One thing we don’t have yet is strength in numbers,” he said of Hollywood. “At this time in this industry there are not many people who are deaf. There aren’t that many deaf roles in front of and behind the camera. … So I hope that will change. “
Meanwhile, people who grew up in a deaf community say the film opens a window into the subtleties of their lives that are unknown to many in the hearing world. For example, the film shows how deaf parents can depend on hearing children.
49-year-old Matt Zatko, a lawyer living in western Pennsylvania, recalls spending much of his childhood helping his father, who was deaf and worked as a painter and wallpaper hanger.
“I remember answering phone calls from people who wanted him to work, and I talked to them and signed with my father at the same time,” Zatko said. “It was our life. That’s what we did. But to see someone make a movie out of it … I laughed. I cried. “
The film also shows the challenges deaf parents face when attending their children’s school, said Tony Von Dolterren, Zatko’s cousin and who grew up with deaf parents.
Von Dolteren, who lives in St. Augustine, Florida, remembers how his dad cheered for him at a baseball game.
“It was louder than most and not loud,” said Von Dolter, 46, now national director of youth affairs at Perfect Game, a youth baseball scouting service. “It would impress you. And people say, “Man, what’s with this guy,” until they find out my dad is deaf. “
80-year-old John D’Anafria, who is deaf and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida, said he is delighted with the Oscars for “CODA” and is grateful that more and more people are learning what people’s lives are like. communities of the deaf. His stepdaughter is Barysh, a personal assistant who lives in New York City.
D’Anafria said that when he grew up he would like to become both an architect and a carpenter, but he was told that he also could not. Instead, he worked as a printer for 35 years in a newspaper press room, a noisy place where many deaf people made a living.
“It’s such a great victory,” he said of the Oscars. “For the deaf community. For deaf people. For everyone. “
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