93' 2016 Austria director: Dariusz Kowalski cinematography: Martin Putz editing: Dieter Pichler production: FreibeuterFilm
Austria is one of four European countries that recognize sign language in their constitution. Despite this, only 50 in 10,000 deaf or hearing-impaired citizens have higher education. Access to interpreters is very limited, and schools still insist on teaching spoken language, thus ruining any chance for deaf students to fully develop their linguistic competence while also undervaluing the identity and culture that are developed along with the use of sign language. Helene Jarmer is a deaf politician who is fighting in parliament to change this. Barbara Hager wrote her doctoral thesis about deaf identity and now uses an interpreter to teach at university. She has a deaf husband and a daughter who can hear, and she is now calmly acknowledging the fact that her newborn son is also unable to hear. A younger woman named Ayse is already taking advantage of the fruits of their pioneering work: after completing training for the deaf, she has taken on a job at a clothing company among other staff who can hear. Dariusz Kowalski, the man behind this subtle film portrait of Vienna's deaf community, learned sign language himself, and he presents its full beauty on-screen. In the final scene of Seeing Voices, Barbara's barely year-old son, Emil, starts his first conversation with his mother.