“Lake Windfall” Movie Review

“Lake Windfall” Movie Review by Vanessa Vibrant Vaughan

Watching the gripping hiking scene in the forest of “Lake Windfall”, I felt like I was watching a version of The Blair Witch Project in ASL!

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The mysterious gun shots and blood from the actors’ ears left many open ended questions brought forth by the dramatic visual musical cinematic movement and increased the suspense.
I could not hear anything; no experience of sound effects, yet visually, the Director Roger Vass, was able to help present that extra sixth sense experience to compensate for the lack of sound!  I attended with a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) friend of mine and she filled me in on some of the sound affects as I was intrigued about what a hearing person’s experience was!  I will not tell more here because you have to see this incredibly well flowing story.  I had to remind myself here and there that I was watching an ASL / DEAF movie. I was so immersed in the story and cinematic style that I forgot I was watching a “deaf” movie.

I chatted with three different people from the ASL culture: two actors from the film, one deaf and one CODA and a hearing person.

Timothy J Dillard is a hard of hearing actor who convincingly portrayed Cliff, a nerd who was brought up orally. His lines touched upon many issues facing the oral deaf and audism.  As a result, this movie also provides a good introduction to different deaf/ASL cultural experiences.

Dillard said, “In the movie as Cliff, It was most powerful and difficult role to act like a nerd in the movie, but the same time, I can feel the connection with Nerd’s sociality. It was hard on Cliff to be able to pick up with the hearing speaking and deaf signing. He is hard of hearing and very obsessed with technology such as phone devices. As I sat down and watched the movie, I couldn’t believe it was me because I felt completely different from the role as Cliff and the reality as myself, Timothy. The experience was most powerful to show the world that a lot of hard of hearing people are having a hard time identifying their selves, whether they are in the hearing culture or in the deaf culture. They are in between, so I felt a connection with Cliff because I am hard of hearing as well. The part where I felt most powerful in the movie was when Jake and I were not getting along because he identifies strongly with the Deaf Culture; however, at one point he realized that he is actually trying to help my character and he felt he shouldn’t be a bully to Cliff anymore.

Alex Laferriere, a CODA actor portraying a hearing person, explains from a film theory perspective and the potential for adding a voice over to the track for all the characters that, “Lake Windfall has the unique opportunity at displaying ASL and Deaf culture in a unique way. This gives the potential for non-ASL speakers to potentially enjoy the film more, since they are not ‘reading’ the whole movie, and potentially learning and understanding sign language with the appropriate translation.”

Laferriere continues, “Now, this begs the question of if the film is more impacting silent with the ambient track, letting people ‘imagine’ the voices in their head, or if reaching a wider audience is the goal. I use ‘Dine & Sign’ on YouTube, as an example, the experimentation of having voices for my father and I, with CC, and speaking in ASL. To me, it was to appeal to ALL people, and showcase what the language ‘sounds’ like. It’s an interesting quandary indeed.”

Hilari Scarl, is a hearing director best known in the ASL community for her documentary film: SEE WHAT I’M SAYING.  Here is her experience of Lake Windfall:

“ “Lake Windfall” is an insightful independent film beautifully directed by Roger Vass, who happens to be deaf. The film features several deaf actors and deals with some of the tensions in the Deaf community about respecting different modes of communication as a backdrop to a suspenseful scientific event that affects all of mankind. “Lake Windfall” will be an eye-opening look into a faction of Deaf culture for hearing people, and celebrated by the Deaf community as an artistic achievement. Even though this is Roger’s first film, his unique vision and keen eye will guarantee that this won’t be his last.”

I agree! This shall not be Vass’s last film. We are screaming for more. No pun intended.  The profound message striving towards world peace left me feeling contemplative.  It feels good to walk away from a good story or movie that leaves you with food for thought. Roger, we are hungry for more!

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