Magazine article Screen International

'Deaf Child': IDFA Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Deaf Child': IDFA Review

Article excerpt

IDFA audience award-winner traces the inspirational life of a young deaf man

Dir: Alex de Ronde. The Netherlands. 2017. 72 mins

Early in Deaf Child, Tobias de Ronde expresses concern that a film “just about my life” couldn’t possibly be interesting. How wrong he is. Alex de Ronde’s documentary on his son immerses the viewer in the life of a man who was born deaf but never once considered himself to suffer from a disability. Told with a light touch and fond affection, it transforms family memories and difficult decisions into an emotionally-charged film.The VPRO Audience Award at IDFA offers sound evidence of its wide appeal.

This is a thought-provoking film that challenges perceptions but succeeds because it captures a sense of the inspirational life of a deaf man who “was never taught that there were obstacles”.

When the one year-old Tobias failed a hearing test in 1990 it became evident that he was deaf. His father recalls that as a parent his instinct was to rapidly adjust his expectations of the life Tobias might lead. His main worry was that Tobias would find himself isolated and lonely. The stirring quality of Deaf Child is the way it reveals that Tobias has done everything he might have wanted, from karate classes and a diving course as a child to travelling the world as an adult.

Extensive use of family home movies lends Deaf Child some of the qualities of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. We literally watch Tobias grow before our eyes from child to man. Footage of the adorable young Tobias eagerly at work in a speech therapy session seems designed to make the viewer misty-eyed. Immediately afterwards the adult Tobias recalls how much he disliked speech therapy and cheerfully declares it “useless”. …

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