French film divides deaf community

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A french film that has been hailed as the country’s next international hit has unleashed a storm of protest from members of the deaf community.

La Famille Bélier portrays the farming family of deaf-and-mute parents Gigi and Rodolphe and their 16-year-old hearing and speaking daughter Paula, an accomplished singer who decides to leave the family home to pursue a singing career.

But the actors chosen to play Gigi and Rodolphe are not deaf and were given a crash course in sign language for their roles – a decision that has angered the film’s critics. Writing in the Guardian Rebecca
Atkinson, who was born deaf, described the resulting performances as, ‘an embarrassing and crass interpretation of deaf culture and sign language’ and compared it to white actors blacking up.

Now the row looks set to go international. La Famille Bélier, which is on general release in France, has been sold to 85 countries.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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