DER Documentary

A Life Without Words

A Life Without Words launch preview watch a preview

by Adam Isenberg
color, 71 min, 2011
Nicaraguan Sign Language and Spanish
English, Spanish, French, Catalan, Turkish, and Kurdish subtitles
including subtitles in each language for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing




Non-profit and K-12 pricing also available
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What would life be like without language? For too many deaf people raised in rural outposts, access to a sign-language community is denied and they are condemned to a life without words.

Such injustice deserves our attention and is explored with care in this haunting story of two deaf siblings, Dulce Maria (28) and Francisco (22), who have been raised their entire lives without access to any written, spoken, or signed language on a farm in northern Nicaragua. They are visited by a Deaf sign-language teacher who works for a local NGO and is determined to teach the siblings their first words. As the two begin their awakening to language, their resistance is clear, but so is their marvel at the teacher and this process.

Their stories are interwoven with the economic and familial history of their family. As we enter their isolated world, uncomfortable questions arise about education, psychology, language, ethics, class, and NGO work.

With an unsettling mix of tragedy and hope, this moving work avoids hard and fast answers to the challenging questions it poses.

“The film, flowing with sublime images, is as poignant as it is captivating. We follow the awakening of Dulce Maria and Francisco with our heart hurting and a tight smile on our lips. Their "lives without words" reveal more than thousands of books. Not to be missed for anything.” La Dépêche du Midi
“A masterpiece of aesthetic images and a plea for language as a fundamental human right.” DOK.fest Munich
“A film of beautiful images and deep pain. It delves into the world of rural Latin America with a view that is neither anthropological nor paternalistic.” El Otro Cine
“It makes you think about how extraordinary it is to have language… It's beautifully done.” — Faye Ginsburg, anthropologist

awardsFilm Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Winner, Best Film, CINEDEAF Rome International Deaf Film Festival, Italy, 2013
Winner, Margaret Mead Filmmakers Award, Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York, 2012
Winner, Prix Documentaire, Cinélatino Rencontres de Toulouse, France, 2012
Winner, Prix Lycéen, Cinélatino Rencontres de Toulouse, France, 2012
Special Mention - Emerging International Filmmaker, Open City London Documentary Film Festival, U.K., 2012
Eyes and Lenses Film Festival, Poland, 2014
Maine Deaf Film Festival, USA, 2014
ETHNOCINECA, Austria, 2014
Days of Ethnographic Film, Slovenia, 2014
The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, USA, 2014
CINEDEAF Rome International Deaf Film Festival, Italy, 2013
HumanDOC International Film Festival, Poland, 2013
Intimate Lens Ethnographic Film Festival, Italy, 2013
Havana Film Festival, Cuba, 2012
DOK.fest International Documentary Film Festival, Germany, 2012
Istanbul International Film Festival, Turkey, 2012
Douarnenez Film Festival, France, 2012
Beeld voor Beeld Film Festival, Netherlands, 2012

Related Resources
Film's website: www.alifewithoutwords.com
Filmmaker's website: www.zelafilm.com

View more photos on www.flickr.com

Related Films
Gesture Performance: Dealing with Disability, Working With the Hearing Impaired
Khalfan and Zanzibar
A Family in History


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