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Through the Eyes of Deaf Children

Sep 25, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Chris Filippone and Azar Kafaei

Like the narrative application of Occam’s Razor, sometimes the best way into a story is the simplest. A View from the Window, a new short documentary from co-directors Chris Filippone and Azar Kafaei, takes this approach. For a day, the filmmakers are flies on the wall in a third-grade class at the California School for the Deaf. Despite the fact that neither Filippone nor Kafaei understands American Sign Language, they trained their camera on the children, keenly attuned to the experience of the kids’ school day. The result is an immersive and deeply moving glimpse into the lives of deaf children.

“We were complete outsiders to the world that you see in the film,” Kafaei told The Atlantic. “Being so deeply disconnected from their intimate world meant that they were also not much bothered by us. So the shoot ended up with us following these kids around throughout the day, and nearly all of the time we had no idea what they were talking or thinking about.”

“This challenge opened a door for us,” Filippone added, “because it forced us to film with more of a focus on emotion and feeling, capturing the sensory aspects of these children’s lives. I was able to feel that sense of wonder and discovery about the world, as well as their initial processing of conflict and injustice in the outside world.”

Though the film’s title, View from the Window, can be read as an allusion to the deaf experience—watching the outside world as if through a solid pane of glass, from the inside—it also captures the filmmakers’ experience of the shoot. Filippone, in particular, said that the film changed the way he thinks about documentary; now, he is more interested in embedding himself in situations and responding to the environment intuitively.

“A lot of times in the past,” Filippone said, “I tended to work from a conceptual perspective before going into a filming situation. My own aesthetic preconceptions would conflict with what was happening. But by being more open during filming, you tend to capture more closely the contours, colors, emotions, and experiences.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.