News / Arts & Entertainment

Breaking Through Barriers in Hollywood

Breaking Through Barriers in Hollywoodi
X
Deyane Moses
March 27, 2014 9:12 PM
Achieving success in Hollywood is difficult. For actors with disabilities such as hearing loss, it is even tougher, since roles for the deaf are limited. VOA Producer Deyane Moses reports from Los Angeles on a civil rights organization that is celebrating the accomplishments of deaf artists in Hollywood who have paved the way for others
Deyane Moses
Achieving success in Hollywood is difficult. For actors with disabilities such as hearing loss, it is even tougher, since roles for the deaf are limited.  A civil rights organization is celebrating the accomplishments of deaf artists in Hollywood who have paved the way for others.

Natasha Ofili has read lips her entire life.

"I was born hearing. Then I had a high fever at 18 months and I lost my hearing at 18 months," said Ofili.

Ofili is an accomplished fashion designer and an aspiring actress. She's having her picture taken hoping her photos will get noticed by casting directors. Her photographer, who's also deaf, tells her how she's doing.

"You know how you look and your stuff," said the photographer. "Awesome!"

Ofili recently landed a lead role in a short film called "Words Not Spoken". She hopes it is the beginning of more work to come.

"For me it's like art. Like fashion is art. And when I got into acting it was very emotional - the story connecting to the character. Like it drew me into it," she said.

The popular teen drama series "Switched at Birth" is one of Ofili's favorite television shows. Constance Marie portrays a mother with a deaf daughter in the production. She had to learn American Sign Language for this role - which she did in three weeks.
FILE - Actress Constance MarieFILE - Actress Constance Marie
x
FILE - Actress Constance Marie
FILE - Actress Constance Marie
"Working with actors that have disabilities is the exact same as working with regular actors. It just sort of opened a world for me as far as the deaf and hard of hearing community. And we have people in wheelchairs on our show and all ethnicities. It's so diverse. It's really just a celebration of what society should look like on television. In my opinion," said Marie.

But many actors say diversity in this show does not realistically reflect Hollywood.  There are a number of deaf actors working but with small roles.  Perhaps one of the most famous and admired actors within the deaf community is Oscar award-winner Marlee Matlin. The National Association of the Deaf recently honored her with a Breakthrough Award. The Association's Chief Executive Officer, Howard Rosenblum, explains why.

"She also broke the stereotypes and the barriers. People who see and hear deaf people think 'Oh! Deaf people can't do anything.' However, she, by herself, showed that we can dance, we can act, we can raise $1 million in one night. And that's what Marlee Matlin does and keeps doing by herself," said Rosenblum.

Established in 1880, the National Association of the Deaf is the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S. This year the organization sponsored the first awards ceremony to honor deaf artists in Hollywood and those who support the deaf community. Matlin said progress has been made but more can be done.

"We can do anything. We can really do anything except hear.  I'd just like to see greater creativity on the part of all involved in the creative process. Whether you talk about directors, casting directors, producers, and writers. I mean I've seen improvement here and there, somewhat,  but I don't think it's not necessarily enough," said Matlin.

Deaf artists, such as Ofili, respect Matlin's work within the community and on the screen. They say they're optimistic that shows like "Switched at Birth" are a sign of more roles to come.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”