Audible, Oscar Nominee For Best Documentary Short Film

Audible is a short documentary film that follows the lives of a group of Deaf teenagers in their final year of high school and has earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short Film 2022. Here's everything you wanted to know about Audible.

Documentary short film Audible

Why the Title 'Audible'?

The title of the short documentary, Audible, plays on the double meaning of the word. On the one hand, it is, obviously, what can be heard, but in the sport of American football, audible is also a change of play in the defence ordered by the quarterback. The audible informs his teammates with a shout such as "Blue 42!" or "Texas 29!" (more information here).


What's It About?

Audible, which you can watch on Netflix, is 38 minutes long and revolves around Amaree McKenstry, a senior football player at the Maryland School for the Deaf, along several narrative threads: a winning streak of 42 consecutive victories they want to keep, the suicide of Amaree's Deaf friend, and the students' preparation for the challenges that await them after high school. Here is the official synopsis from Netflix:

Audible is a cinematic and immersive coming of age documentary following Maryland School for the Deaf high school athlete Amaree McKenstry and his close friends as they face the pressures of senior year and grappling with the realities of venturing off into the hearing world. Amaree and his teammates take out their frustrations on the football field as they battle to protect an unprecedented winning streak, while coming to terms with the tragic loss of a close friend. This is a story about kids who stand up to adversity. They face conflict, but approach the future with hope – shouting out to the world that they exist and they matter

This is the official Netflix trailer (English subtitles):


How Did the Idea For the Documentary Come About?

The documentary's director, Matthew Ogens, had previously directed numerous documentaries, primarily interested in telling the stories of underrepresented groups. Ogens lived 30 miles away from the Maryland School for the Deaf, so he was familiar with the school and worked on this project for several years until he approached Netflix, but needed to bring in a prominent figure in the Deaf community to properly focus the documentary. That figure was Nyle DiMarco, one of the executive producers of the short film.

The connection between the famous Deaf model and the Maryland School for the Deaf is strong, as Nyle attended the school and his brother Neal DiMarco played for its football team. Neal, who also appears in the documentary, is probably the least known of the three brothers (Nyle, Nico and Neal): he was an assistant coach for the Maryland school's football team from 2015-2020, played four seasons for the Gallaudet University team and, in July 2021, was named head coach at Maryland.

The three DiMarco brothers: Nyle, left, Neal, centre, and Nico, right (photo: bnf-reinvention.blogspot.com)

Ogens learned some basics of American Sign Language before filming began, and in the end the documentary was shot just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This was the director's take on Sign Language:

It’s a very beautiful and nuanced language because it’s not just the hands — it’s also body language and facial expressions. It’s a very physical language and very tough to learn, but I learned as much as I could. It’s not like I could get fluent in six weeks, but learning some of the basics at least shows some respect.

The critics also highlight the excellent sound editing, as the director wanted the documentary to be immersive for both hearing and Deaf viewers: "It can be visually stunning and its sound design may be the best use in any documentary I’ve ever seen. Its story resonates powerfully" (readysteadycut.com).


Multiple Realities Of a Deaf

The documentary shows other realities of deaf people rarely represented in cinema, such as the suicide of a close friend of Amaree's after being transferred to an integration school with hearing students, where he was harassed for being Deaf and using hearing aids. Or the LGTBIQ+ reality represented by Amaree's friend and cheerleader of the football team, Jalen, who closes the documentary with a powerful and beautiful reflection on life.

Jalen (right), one of the main characters of the short documentary film Audible, represents the LGTBIQ+ reality of the deaf community

The problems and difficulties in life that a Deaf person can have are the same as any other person, yet most of the Deaf characters portrayed in film have been "whitewashed", showing only that they are deaf, often we know nothing more about them.  Nyle DiMarco has been trying for some years to show other realities (as in Deaf U) and the intricate lives that Deaf people also have. In this regard, he said:

It just goes to show that there is no one right way to be deaf. One thing that that I love about Amaree, is that he throws out the misconception of deaf people that we're all monochromatic or live a specific existence.

Poster del cortometraje documental Audible de Netflix


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