Film Festival showcasing lived experiences of hearing loss coming to Belgrave

A previous screening of the 'Unheard Stories' film festival. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

By Tyler Wright

A travelling film festival showcasing the work of those in the Deaf Community will be coming to Belgrave’s Cameo Cinemas this Winter after its premiere in Elsternwick on World Hearing Day back in March.

‘Unheard Stories’ was organised by Soundfair CEO Caitlin Barr, who said the idea originated after sharing stories of those with lived experience of hearing loss – an issue which impacts more than one in six Australians.

“It became clear that there needed to be a different kind of platform to share [these stories] and that making a film was the most appropriate way to do that…

“The idea of the film festival is to create space for people to share their lived experience, but also a space for people to be an observer into others’ lives in a way you just don’t usually get,” Ms Barr.

She also said the pandemic has increased the need for more empathy toward those with deafness.

“The presence of masks created a huge barrier – it was their lifeline to connection, being able to often lip read or use the reading of facial expressions to augment what they heard,” Ms Barr said.

“If people were saying, ‘could you take down your mask so I can hear you?’ more often than not people say ‘no, I won’t take down my mask. ‘

For someone who’s really struggling to communicate, what it says to you is ‘I’m not important’, ‘this world doesn’t value me’ or ‘I need to fix my problem’, when in fact the problem is shared across society and we’ve all got a role to play.”

The festival has already spread across the country with screenings in the Blue Mountains and Macquarie Hearing Hub in Sydney.

“People come out the other end with this real sense of motivation to care a great deal more about the reality of life with hearing loss – there’s this kind of empathy [that comes from] walking in someone’s shoes,” Ms Barr said.

Soundfair has collated films from Australia and one from the U.S and have also created their own film called ‘Amplify This’.

Marjia, one of the participants in the film, said the experience has given her “more confidence” and access to a community that she “never would never have pursued in the past.”

“And more importantly a healing and acceptance of who I am, and what I have become due to my hearing loss.”

Each of the four films seek to bring awareness to the complexities of hearing loss and show no two people have identical experiences, Ms Barr said.

“Some people lost their hearing later in life, some people haven’t been hearing since birth. Some people use technology, some people don’t. Some people speak Auslan, some people don’t.”

What we wanted to show is that it doesn’t need to be an either or – but actually, the common experiences of people are that there are barriers that society puts up around them that makes life hard – and that’s incredibly unfair.”

“The idea of highlighting and increasing people’s awareness of what those stories are is one critical step towards destroying those barriers altogether.”