In the picturesque Israeli Negev desert lays the Bedouin Village of El-Sayed. It has the largest percentage of deaf people in the world yet, no hearing aids can be seen because in El-Sayed ...
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In the picturesque Israeli Negev desert lays the Bedouin Village of El-Sayed. It has the largest percentage of deaf people in the world yet, no hearing aids can be seen because in El-Sayed deafness is not a handicap. The tranquility of the village is interrupted by Salim El-Sayed's decision to change his deaf son's fate using the Cochlear Implant Operation. This bionic implanted chip, that can make deaf people hear, is slowly reaching more secluded areas, even to El-Sayed which has neither paved roads nor electricity. Salim's decision is evoking great conflict in the village threatening the tradition of coexistence between deaf and hearing. "Voices from El-Sayed" is a unique and moving documentary offering us intimate cinematic dialogue with El-Sayed's marvelous silent people.Written by
Oded Adomi Leshem
Voices of El-Sayed is a film that suggests a great deal, and though it is often silent, it speaks loudly in many other ways.
Congenital deafness in El-Sayed is widespread so much so that it has become integrated into the culture. Hearing and non-hearing residents alike live in silence and all use a variant of sign language adapted to local needs and habits. Many deaf residents of El-Sayed, like the extremely amiable Juma, live and work, resigned to or even mildly pleased with their impairment. "A hearing person is always nervous," Juma explains half-seriously.
Throughout Oded Adomi Leshem's spacious and deeply felt documentary, the spectator is made to pause over ambient explorations of the sights and sounds of El-Sayed.. Voices from El-Sayed is, after all, a film about sound and hearing.
Driving this point further, Leshem interpolates his ambient scenes and interviews – most of which are conducted through sign language with subtitles – with several sequences filmed by a local deaf teenager, Ruwayda El-Sayed. Filming her family and friends, she ruminates in subtitles about her aspirations to become a camerawoman. But her monologues are delivered with no soundtrack whatsoever.
For the hearing viewer, these silent scenes create a fascinating rift in a film that is otherwise so much a celebration of sound. (For its astonishing ability to evoke details of subculture and landscape, the film's sound design is reminiscent of that of Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence.) In a film that is so gentle, so calm in other ways, this device creates an almost dialectical schism, sharply dividing and contrasting those sequences that are totally soundless, narrated only on screen text, and those that are richly sonic, giving every sense of space and ambiance through sensitive sound design.
Leshem shows patience throughout, as in the opening sequence, relying both on a critical eye and on the ability of long sequences to slowly reveal themselves (a combination that aligns the film with some of the late work of Frederick Wiseman).
Voices of El-Sayed is a film that suggests a great deal – about sound and deafness, about listening and watching movies, about hearing, watching, and interpreting images of Israel – and though it is often silent, it speaks loudly in many other ways.
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