One of the absolute greatest things about cinema, and what makes it such a powerful storytelling medium, is its ability to dive us, the viewers, face-first into perspectives that may feel foreign , or that we simply fail to take into consideration as we go about our daily lives. Sometimes these perspectives aren’t fantastical at all, but instead part of the everyday lives of millions of people who simply aren’t given the spotlight very often; people whose lived experience is sometimes ignored by the majority. This is why film festivals that shine a light on a specific perspective are important, and this is why FiCSor exists.
FiCSor– the International Festival of Deaf Cinema in Argentina — is approaching its second installment, and its first in the city of Buenos Aires. It’s a film festival designed to bring the deaf experience, culture and language to the forefront, as well as to highlight the work of deaf filmmakers. The festival’s director, Federico Sykes, is one of those filmmakers himself. He describes growing up in front of the television and finding himself fascinated by the images and colors that came out of that magic box, while becoming determined to use those moving pictures as a storytelling tool. He graduated from Universidad de Palermo’s Audiovisual Design program, and has dedicated his life to challenging perceptions of what the deaf should be able to do.
We spoke to Sykes about the importance of a festival like this for a community that has been woefully underrepresented in the mainstream. “We are attempting to deepen the acknowledgement of cultural diversity as part of humanity’s heritage, and create an awareness in society about the deaf community; its identity, its culture, its language,” Sykes says. “We want to make their struggle visible. We want to benefit the deaf community — children, young people, and adults — as well as the hearing audience who may be interested in the topic. We want to strengthen the cultural and linguistic acknowledgment of deaf people, to show that our capacity goes beyond hearing, and we have a lot to offer the world through sign language.”
The festival officially kicks off on Thursday September 20th, and it’s free and open entry for everyone. FiCSor aims to reach as many people as possible, and presents itself as an open invitation both for deaf and hearing persons.
It’s important for the festival to be held in venues that are accessible to all audience; for this reason, this installment of FiCSor takes place at places such as the legendary Gaumont theater, the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, the Centro Cultural de la Memoria “Haroldo Conti”, the Instituto Superior del Profesorado en Educación Superior – ISPEE, Centro Cultural de la Ciencia y Defensoría del Público de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual. The full list of venues, including their addresses, can be found on the festival’s website.
The festival makes it a point to feature both films that deal thematically with the day-to-day life of deaf people, as well as the work of deaf filmmakers who explore the identity in their work. The selection process was arduous. “After putting out the call for submissions, we received over 233 movies from around the world”, Sykes said. All of these films are linked through the use of sign language, an important point that Sykes and the organization strives to drive home.
Among the official selection of films being screened at the festival are (((RESONANCIA))), a documentary about the inclusion of deaf people within the theater community; Femmes sourdes dites-moi, a French-Canadian film about women who attended the first deaf women’s school of Quebec; Fantasma, a farcical Argentine film about a deaf actor who attempts to get a role in a movie; and Último Año, a strikingly powerful documentary from Chile which examines the difficulties of a group of deaf students as they try to make their way through their final year of basic school. The festival also includes several short films (including comedy Las Muelas del Cuco and documentary Words of Caramel), as well as a number of talks and other activities. Check the official website for the full schedule.
This is a festival that goes beyond just movie screenings to also include activities designed to entertain, motivate and inspire the next generation of deaf filmmakers. Sykes remembers his time as a young man approaching the art of cinema as something he strongly wanted to be a part of. With films that put a strong emphasis on representation, as well as the activities aimed at kids, he hopes to be able to show deaf children that they are just as capable of telling their own stories in this medium.
It has not been an easy journey for FiCSor. “We have had no support from the State, the National Institute for Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA), companies or non-profits. This is precisely because of the country’s current situation. That’s why I’m extremely lucky to have a great team who believes in this festival, because it is a beautiful project that is worth working on.”
Representation matters. For minorities and people who may somehow deviate from what is culturally assumed to be the “standard”, seeing themselves on screen is an immensely powerful thing, which can open up channels of creativity and inspiration within them that they didn’t even know they had, or would have lied dormant if someone hadn’t shown them this possibility. FiCSor is an open invitation to the entire world to come share the stories, difficulties, joys and laughter of a community that they may have more in common with than they think. After all, that’s one of the things that makes cinema such a powerful, unifying artform.