Four weddings and a Funeral first hit our screens in 1994 and featuring a deaf actor; David Bower, playing the part of Charles’ (Hugh Grant) brother.
The fact that such a well-loved film featured a deaf actor is still talked about today. A great opportunity to showcase a deaf character who is strong and assertive; relatively forward thinking for the early 90’s.
We saw Four Weddings and a Funeral return in a 15-minute Comic Relief special, featuring all of our most loved characters from the original film.
Here we saw David once again guiding his brother towards a more refined Father of the Bride’s speech at his daughter’s wedding, using his cheeky style.
We have come a long way since this 1994 film’s debut of a key deaf role in a popular film. Just last year, we saw the short film The Silent Child, featuring a deaf child, win an Oscar and at the end of last year, a deaf British actor appear in the box office hit; Bohemian Rhapsody.
It is a delight to see deaf actors not only appearing in deaf storylines, but within mainstream film and TV.
There have however been films throughout the years featuring deaf characters that have been played by hearing actors, which has caused quite a controversy within the deaf community.
Last year a film called The Silence was released about a deaf girl battling monsters. The decision was taken by the film’s Director, Leonetti to cast a hearing actress, to which afterwards he said: “She’s flawless like she’s been signing her entire life. She seems to have an almost innate sense of what it’s like being a deaf person.”
Well-known deaf actors spoke out about the lack of authentic casting for this film, when there is plenty of deaf talent to choose from.
There is an interesting mix of those Directors who seek to create an authentic experience and those who put forward a tokenistic deaf character, with little understanding of the reasons to seek deaf talent into the role.
Deaf actors have been included in films as far back as 1932, in a 60-minute documentary featuring the German deaf community. This film aimed to give the German public a positive perception of the capabilities of deaf people but was banned by the Nazi’s in 1934 as Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda didn’t want the positive perception promoted.
In another film of this era, the topic couldn’t be more different. And now tomorrow was released in 1944 with the main storyline focused on curing deafness.
An interesting contrast in storylines and it shows that the differences in approach that occurred post war are still prevalent today.
I wonder where we will see a deaf actor taking centre stage again…