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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.