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Actions speak louder than words in Deaf Jam

(Abigail Darlington, Charleston City Paper)  Deaf Jam is a documentary you can’t take your eyes off of. If you do, you’re probably missing the point. American Sign Language (ASL) poetry must be seen, not heard. But instead of opening with an explanation of her film, and what ASL poetry even is, director Judy Lieff lets us figure it out for ourselves. At first, it’s pretty frustrating. Hints are thrown at us through shots of rapid sign language and animated subtitles that are difficult to follow. As the film progresses, the metaphor becomes clear. She’s demonstrating to the “hearing people,” as we are called in the film, what it’s like to be thrown into a language we can’t understand. Her technique is effective, and it attaches the viewer to the cause in a way words could not. And once you catch onto the film’s rhythm, it all begins to fall into place.