Joe Clark: Media access

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Accessible cinemaReviews

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Open-captioned movies

Liar, Liar

Seen: 1997.06.07

I almost did not notice, in the repertory cinema listings, that an outfit called Deaf Canada Today was to sponsor an open-captioned screening of Liar, Liar at the massive but dilapidated Bloor Cinema in Toronto. The ad clearly said Tripod Captioned Films.

There were 2:00 and 4:00 shows. I went to the former, and fewer than 50 others were present. I walked in, with some trepidation. A hearing guy instantly pegged me as also hearing (let’s face it, many deaf people look deaf) and handed me an evaluation sheet even though I hadn’t seen the film yet, asking me to fill it out. The guy started talking with a very old and apparently hearing man who whirred in on a scooter, explaining that the movie had “closed captions” so the old man could follow along with it. One did not expect naïve walk-in traffic to this showing.

The first film was a short, Edda’s Song, featuring a 20ish woman in a leather jacket talking, via ASL, with her grandma Edda. The song in question was gestural and was not rendered into subtitles, though the other scanty dialogue was. The sound man (sic) on the movie later worked for Sony Music, where he and I had a very interesting discussion about the crappy captioning on Sony Music Canada videos, and now he directs his own vids. It’s a small world after all, etc.

The movie Liar, Liar started with offscreen voices (many – a teacher and students), none of them identified. I should point out to readers that I haven’t seen open-captioned anything, except for decoded closed-captions, since roughly 1980, and I’ve never seen an open-captioned movie in a theatre. (From what I can tell, virtually no one else in Toronto has, either. This may have been the first showing ever.) I was at my most alert in an effort to evaluate the captioning mindset at work. Observations:

Interestingly, the queue outside for the 4:00 show numbered a good hundred, nearly all of them signing away. I kept to myself. Looking forward to the next open-captioned showing.