By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
The award-winning film “Feeling Through” has been breaking barriers. Not only does it star a Deaf/Blind actor, but the director Doug Roland has been holding fully accessible screenings across America (first in person and now virtually). The film was inspired by a chance meeting Roland had late one night with Artemio, a Deaf/Blind person. The topical film has been selected for numerous high-profile international film festivals and has been taking home numerous awards. “Feeling Through” can be seen online during Slamdance in February and it is one of 10 short films that are being considered for Oscar consideration.
This year Slamdance has a new film block called “Unstoppable,” which is comprised of films made by and/or featuring people with disabilities. This 13-time, award-winning film (made in partnership with Helen Keller Services) marks the first time a Deaf/Blind actor has ever starred in a film.
This coming-of-age story follows Tereek, played by Steven Prescod, a teen wandering the streets of New York, desperate for a place to crash when he encounters Artie, a Deaf/Blind man played by Robert Tarango, who is in need of help getting home. What begins as an awkward meeting between strangers from completely different backgrounds quickly becomes an intimate bond between friends, and a journey that forever changes Tereek.
“Feeling Through” can’t help but soften the heart of the most calloused viewer. Tereek has his own troubles, in that he is forced to couch surf at night. He happens to be on his way to anyone’s house one night and has finally gained approval from a female friend when he happens along Artie. He is moved by Artie’s independence and decides to sit with him until his bus arrives. This is a powerful film that really shines a light on one man’s compassion toward another.
Recently, the director held a YouTube discussion around the movie, which was facilitated by actress Whoopi Goldberg. Tarango says that he was excited about his first time acting. He noted that he was glad to provide a role model for others. “I was happy to pave the way.”
Prescod said that at first he didn’t realize that this was an experience that the director actually lived through. “I built a connection with Robert and we were able to communicate.” He said that while at first it felt a bit different, “I took away from the experience that authentic acting needs to happen.”
Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress who won an Oscar in 1985 for her performance in “Children of a Lessor God,” serves as one of the executive producers on the film. “Viewers are able to experience the truth in the story. We need to stop the ‘isms’ in Hollywood. It’s time for us to carry the film.”
Whoopi summed it up: “We all need to take a deep breath and watch a slice of life. That’s what makes it so sublime—a view into a world that is not our own.”
Take a look for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1CqzntEZZ8.