The international ReelAbilities Film Festival is under way. It feels appropriate to shine a spotlight on CODA, a short by Erika Davis-Marsh. Before the opening sequence, viewers will see a blurb mentioning open-captions, as opposed to close-captions. Open-captioning is in place so that hearing, hard of hearing and Deaf viewers can enjoy the film together.

The acronym CODA stands for Child Of Deaf Adults. Such children are often born with perfect hearing. Davis-Marsh has drawn parallels between the child born to mixed race parents, and the hearing child born to Deaf parents. Both may face societal integration problems. Both deal with discrimination. Both often try to fit into one category or another. The plight of such a child is explored here in a bittersweet way (but more sweet than bitter).

Alex is struggling to express herself. The hearing world around her seems to accept her relatively well, apart from her dance instructor. For whatever reason, Alex dances with no feeling. The story revolves around the dancer trying to come to terms with who she is, and then really feel it as she translates it into her choreography.

In some circles, Alex pretends to be Deaf to seek acceptance. It is also a question of love toward her parents. If both parents use sign language, what is the crime in Alex choosing to communicate this way too – even in front of certain non-deaf people? After all, it is part of her upbringing. It is not very different than a child of transplanted or immigrant families wanting to retain their home language when interacting with their friends in school, even when the lingua franca is English.

For the benefit of the child, Alex’s parents encouraged her from a young age to ‘use her voice’. But a child is still a child, and feels attachments to the things that make her parents special. It might be natural for offspring to want to mimic the behavior of their progenitor. Alex’s soul searching ends up not only being about herself, but about her connection with her parents. Learning how to express how she feels about them also puts her in touch with her inner self, so that she is able to bring it forth in her chosen means of artistic expression.


CODA (ReelAbilities Film Festival) – 10AM and 1PM, May 28th – Innis Town Hall, Toronto.