Plot via Sundance:
A spate of robberies in Southern California schools had an oddly specific target: tubas. In this work of creative nonfiction, d/Deaf first-time feature director Alison O’Daniel presents the impact of these crimes from an unexpected angle. The film unfolds mimicking a game of telephone, where sound’s feeble transmissibility is proven as the story bends and weaves to human interpretation and miscommunication. The result is a stunning contribution to cinematic language. O’Daniel has developed a syntax of deafness that offers a complex, overlaid, surprising new texture, which offers a dimensional experience of deafness and reorients the audience auditorily in an unfamiliar and exhilarating way.
The captions in The Tuba Thieves are an essential part of the narrative. They are more detailed going into almost poetic revelries describing the “rush and fall” of water, mops “smack the floor”, an “air circulates”.
Debut filmmaker, Alison O’ Daniel, who is hard of hearing, lets the captions space between silence and sound, the bridge between the hearing audience and the deaf world it depicts. The captions enable the audience to understand what it is and means to be deaf, the ugly-beauty of silence.
The Tuba Thieves is a hybrid between documentary and fiction. The tuba thefts are a metaphor for deafness, how sound is stolen from them and how music can still be enjoyed when the vast majority of notes are removed. Extend this to every aspect of the hearing world and one can get the enormity of what O’ Daniel is trying to convey.
The Tuba Thieves embraces uncertainty and misunderstanding. As a hard of hearing person I found it all touching and invigorating. It breaks down the wall, correcting and adjusting deafness to an audience that can understand that every hearing interaction is a never ending game of telephone for the deaf.
The Tuba Thieves gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+.
MAYA E. RUDOLPH FOR LOUVERTURE
SALLY JO FIFER
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE AND ENGLISH