Audible review – American football film makes a noise about deaf culture

Ten years ago, director Matt Ogens was shooting an ad campaign involving high school football teams. One of them was from Maryland School for the Deaf. Ogens was already aware of the school – he grew up within 30 miles of the place and had had a deaf best friend since he was eight years old – and he stayed in touch in his directorial capacity for the next decade, feeling that “there was a bigger story to tell”.

The result was shot last year, pre-pandemic, and arrives on Netflix in the form of Audible, a 38-minute documentary about the team’s final semester. It starts with the brutal loss of a game that breaks a 16-season winning streak, taking in the ordinary trials and tribulations of adolescence, plus some of the particular challenges of preparing to step out of the deaf community to face adult life in the hearing world. The soundtrack fades in and out, blurring and unblurring to reflect what the players themselves hear of it, and keeps in all the advertent and inadvertent noises the students make as they communicate in American Sign Language (ASL). It is also set against the backdrop of grief for teammate [...]

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