Finding out who you are is never easy. Creating your own identity can come with a lot of nerves, doubts but also hopefully with love and happiness. We can only imagine how hard this must be for young people like Alex (Kerrynton Jones) who are a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). Her story is being told in “CODA”, the newest short film from director Erika Davis-Marsh (“Night Play”, “Count to Twenty”). Because of the significance of the topic, the movie turns out to be a unique, emotional and an important one.
Alex (Kerrynton Jones) is a CODA as she can hear but both of her parents can’t. When she was younger, she learned sign language to communicate with her parents and it was her preferable means of communication, despite the fact she’s not deaf. Now, she’s trapped between the “people who can’t hear” and “the people who can” and so she’s not sure who is. To find herself and her identity, she’s following dance classes but her place in the dance company is in jeopardy. During a night out in a bar for (mostly) deaf people, she encounters Josh (Ryan Lane), a deaf musician who’s charming her. However, she keeps a secret from him… How will their relationship evolve? And what will happen to her if she loses her place in the dance company?
Making a film about deafness is always significant as the topic needs to get more attention by as many people as it can. Look at “The Silent Child”, which won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film last year because of its beautifulness and relevance. However, most of the time in a movie like that it’s about a deaf child and so it’s a relief to so it the other way around. Deaf parents and how their teenage child has to cope with them while figuring out who she’s. In that way, “CODA” is very unique and even more powerful. Young girls who are going through that same phase will certainly recognize something of themselves in Alex.
Especially because the role of Alex is being portrayed by the immensely captivating Kerrynton Jones (“High Strung Free Dance”, “Sia: The Greatest”). She’s not only expressive in her emotions, whether it’s happy, sad, in love or afraid, but also in her dance movements. Jones is a high-class dancer from Maryland and so she dances over the screen very gracious and with a lot of flair and passion. The stunning choreography from her dances was created by Tyce Diorio (“So You Think You Can Dance”). Learning sign languages wasn’t possible easy but she signs beautifully in this film. However, she could count on the best support possible. Her movie dad is CJ Jones (“Baby Driver”, “Door in the Woods”) and he knows sign language like no one else. After being born as a CODA, he sadly lost his hearing as well. Since then, he’s doing everything he can to teach everyone how to handle sign language and his contribution to this film is again tremendous and important for both the film as well as the deaf community. To heightened that CODA feeling in this movie even more, the deaf actress Antoinette Abbamonte (“Casey and the Hollow Beat”, “The Sense of Things”) was cast as Alex her mother. Abbamonte brings her real-life experience delightful and elegantly to the screen. As a proud activist off-screen, she’s always prepared to fight for the adding of subtitles and closed captions and those are also part of this movie. Last but not least, Ryan Lane (“Veronica Mars”, “House”), who’s also deaf in real-life, is portraying the gentle and musically gifted Josh charmingly and sweetly.
Having only just begun its festival run, the film already won the programmers’ Choice Award at Cleveland, the Founder’s Award at ReelAbilities and was also part of the official selection at LA Shorts. Let’s hope that the film will be screened during more film festivals because it needs to be watched by as many people as possible. With the help from the stunning cast, director Davis-Marsh made an authentic, expressive and important movie.