This loss will not define us as a team.
A forty-two-game winning streak is tough to fathom, but that’s what the Maryland School for the Deaf varsity football team was riding as they entered the game that begins Matthew Ogens‘ documentary short Audible. It wasn’t just against other deaf schools either. The program had grown into a football powerhouse with a championship pedigree that allowed its athletes a chance to grow together as a community on and off the field. And these kids need that considering everything they face on top of the usual teenage drama of high school. Add the death of a friend to the uncertainty of graduation and no one is feeling that struggle more than senior star Amaree McKenstry-Hall and his friends. This season means more than just what shows on the scoreboard.
It took Ogens over a decade to get this production together—he jokes in interviews that the varsity coach was still a player when he first broached the topic. That it finally solidified in time to document Amaree’s complicated path forward in the face of tragedy probably says more about the hearing world than these kids or the film crew. It makes it seem like it’s not enough to provide a feel-good portrait of perseverance against all odds that normalizes the deaf community as more than victims of a disability. You need extra suffering. Extra adversity. Extra emotions. Does it make the story more compelling as a result? Sure. I do wonder what might have been without that additional weight, but life is never so simple.
The focus therefore turns away from the school and the sport onto Amaree himself. This is a young man who was born hearing before Meningitis took that sense away—and, with it, a scared and troubled father. Amaree subsequently had to grow up amongst an otherwise fully hearing family, the loneliness it provided only being alleviated by the help of his classmates and friends like Teddy. That the latter would end up taking his own life as a result of bullying upon transferring to a hearing school only amplifies just how alone these kids feel when not surrounded by each other and how much further we must go as a nation to dismantle our ablest sensibilities. We have a long way to go for equality on multiple fronts.
Through that tragedy, however, Amaree takes us into the psychological hardships faced as well as the love and support that arrives in its wake. Shot with attractive cinematography juxtaposed against a resonant score, it’s no wonder that Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg is listed as a producer. Above that also lies the open-captioning and immersive sound design that was brought to the mainstream courtesy of Sound of Metal with Ogens putting us into the locker room to experience this loud game in a different way. In the end it all adds up to the word that the art world and Hollywood need to embrace more: representation. Take us into these spaces and show that they’re not defined by what’s lacking. They’re defined by the strength to overcome.
courtesy of ShortsTV