Stepping foot in a movie theater to watch a motion picture can be an incredible experience. The visuals, the story and the sound all play into bringing a director’s vision to life. Imagine a movie without any sound whatsoever. Thus is the life of deaf filmmaker, Juliette Hansen.
Hansen has lived her life without the ability to hear. She is now attempting to break the mold and is currently attending Salt Lake Community College for a film production degree.
Although she has a passion for filmmaking, she carries a cause that is bigger than that.
Hansen grew up in a family in which no one learned sign language. She had no real way to communicate with her family.
“Ninety percent of deaf kids have hearing parents that don’t sign,” she said via interpreter at the screening of her latest student film, “Color the World.” The film was shown to Weber State foreign language and American Sign Language students at the Wildcat Theater on Feb. 16.
“Color the World” reflects the message that she is trying to share. The film focuses on the relationship between a deaf 12-year-old girl and her hearing mom as they struggle to communicate.
For the actresses in the film, they know the reality of that all too well. Hansen chose to cast a real mother and daughter who suffer this exact same plight. Millicent Simmonds is 12 years old and deaf. Her hearing mother, Emily Simmonds, unlike the film, does know sign language. They sat with Hansen as they also shared their passion for Hansen’s cause.
Emily decided that she would learn sign language the moment that she discovered that her daughter was deaf.
“When the news came, as a parent, I had no clue what the right thing was to do, but I want to have a relationship with my daughter,” Emily said as she shared what it was like to make the decision to learn sign for her daughter. Millicent lost her hearing due to a medication overdose before she was twelve months old.
“It caused stress in my marriage because my husband wanted to listen to the doctor who said that if we sign, she (Millicent) will become lazy and not try to practice her hearing,” Emily said.
Emily shared the story of her aunt that grew up deaf. Her grandfather refused to learn sign, and their relationship became strained.
In an article entitled “Improvements in the signing skills of hearing parents of deaf children” by James W. Bartee, 90 percent of the deaf population have hearing parents and, of those, 88 percent do not know how to sign.
According to the same article common causes of a parent not learning sign language are family attitudes toward the handicap, and expectations for the child’s role in the family.
Hansen hopes to help bring change to this statistic.
“For a deaf child, communication is the future. Without communication, there is no future,” said Hansen.