A deaf married couple, Peter and Nita, resist the idea of providing their deaf little girl, Heather, with the cochlear implant she asks for. To Peter’s brother Chris and his wife Mari, both of whom can hear but who also have a deaf child, this is a form of abuse. They intend their baby son to receive an implant regardless of opposition from Mari’s deaf parents (that’s right: Mari has nonhearing parents AND a nonhearing son). The reason for Peter’s and Nita’s reluctance is that they don’t want Heather to miss out on the “deaf culture,” erected by the deaf community, they patently prize. Eventually Heather is affected enough by her parents’ opposition to say she doesn’t want the implant after all.
There are a lot of charming children in this documentary by Josh Aronson—titled Sound and Fury (2000)—but charming children is not what it’s about. It is about the fear of new technology, in this case fear issuing from those who have perforce understood deafness, not hearing, all their lives. Yet now they encounter something that may make deafness for the next generation extinct. Presumably it is also about selfishness, not to say possessiveness toward not only deaf culture but deafness as well. Sound and Fury is a revealing film. Aronson has a great subject—families and cochlear implants—about which he is a neutral observer. Nor does he use a narrator. Anyone interested at all in this New Millennium development and controversy ought to view this well-done, theatrically released documentary. You won’t find it uninvolving.
Postscript. Heather now has a cochlear implant.