Docurama // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 24th, 2011
The deaf entertainers documentary.
Here is exactly why documentaries are so valuable: they shed light on subcultures that completely off the radar. At least the radar of most people...
See What I'm Saying is a documentary looking at the struggles and successes of deaf entertainers. Four individuals are profiled: CJ Jones, a stand-up comic who is wildly popular in the deaf world but has yet to make an impact outside of that small market; TL Forsberg, a goth-metal singer; Bob Hiltermann, drummer for the band Beethoven's Nightmare; and Robert DeMayo, an actor.
The documentary follows each of them as their professional lives intersect for a large-scale show, coinciding with a major event for the deaf.
I confess my ignorance: the struggle of the deaf entertainer was something of which I had zero awareness. But that's what documentaries are for, right, to enlighten yahoos like me. And enlightened I am, thanks to director Hilari Scarl's interesting exploration on the uphill battle of four deaf entertainers.
Breaking into show business is tough at is; add in the challenge of being deaf and the chance for full-scale success becomes even more daunting. What works so well in this film is each character's goal; they're not all trying to make it big. Of them all, CJ Jones is the most successful but yearns for mainstream success. Hiltermann just wants his corner of the music world to work, TL is confused as to what her audience should be and DeMayo is just trying to make ends meet.
To be honest, none of their stories -- save for perhaps the heartache-filled saga of DeMayo -- are particularly dramatic. Only the fact that they're deaf lends their experiences more weight (though you wouldn't know TL was deaf from first appearance), which I guess is the point. Only DeMayo's journey struck me, mainly because it's filled with economic strife, homelessness and a health crisis. None of that has anything to do with his deafness, but it was still a compelling human experience.
So while I may not have been moved to tears, I still found See What I'm Saying informative and engaging. It accomplishes what it sets out to: shedding light on a subculture of our society that most people may never think twice about. And judging by the large-scale event that caps the film, featuring all four of our stars, it is a group of Americans well-represented. Nicely done.
Picture quality is solid, presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, and supplemented by a 2.0 stereo audio mix. Extras: additional performances, interviews and deleted scenes.
It's worth a look for another angle on the dog-eat-dog world of show business.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (Open Captioned)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Bonus Performances