Another year has flown by as Deaffest returned again to hold its 9th Festival at Light House, Wolverhampton. This year Deaffest teamed up with Krazy Kat Theatre and The Arena Theatre Wolverhampton, who hosted three days of performances by Krazy Kat aimed at 4 – 11 year olds throughout the festival weekend. The 50 minute performances used music, puppets and sign language to portray Krazy Kat’s unique version of “A (midsummer night’s) dream”.
On Friday, a sunny clear blue sky greeted the arrival of Giuseppe Giuranna, the celebrated Italian born VV expert. Giuseppe ran a full day workshop for young deaf people aged 13 and over, coaching VV skills. “V V” or Visual Vernacular is an art form significant in the Deaf and signing world. It is a form of physical theatre performed by Deaf artists in an entirely visual manner, using the entire body, iconic gestures and facial expression to tell a rhythmic story. The group of students from Derby all gained a lot from the experience and Giuseppe succeeded in inspiring a new generation to express themselves in creative performance.
Fast forward to a warm Friday evening with crowds on the courtyard, and the clink of wine glasses as the official launch of Deaffest 2014 took place. A free evening open to everyone saw a mix of prominent deaf film makers, actors, media experts, film buffs and members of the community all mingling and anticipating the evening ahead. I would bet that many a future film or arts project has its origin at Deaffest where all these skilled and talented people have the chance to meet and get down to some serious networking!
Opening reception over, the crowd moved into the cinema for an evening of film screenings including a short film by Zebra Uno on the 10th anniversary of the Clin d’Oeil film festival in Reims, France and a feature film Dummy Jim about a deaf Scotsman who cycled to the Arctic Circle in 1951. Marilyn Willrich, one of the directors of Zebra Uno and Zebra Access introduced the evening’s events, which came to a finale with the screening of Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool, a hilarious comedy drama following the exploits of two generations of deaf men competing with each other for superiority. This was followed by a live question and answer session on stage led by prominent deaf director / producer Louis Neethling with audience participation. The line up included members of the cast and crew: Charlie Swinbourne as script writer, and John Smith, Matthew Kirby and Sean Richards, who all acted in the film.
After an inspiring evening of deaf culture and achievement in film, the satisfied audience made its way back out onto the courtyard with plenty to talk about as the party continued into the early hours of Saturday.