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 Cinema For All: Part 2

An eye-opening anecdote

People are usually motivated by personal experience as a catalyst for universal change. Miguel Ángel Font Bisier admits he is not an agent of change who has personally been affected by any disability either through family members or his social bubble.

No, his defining moment was a result of a meeting with a deaf attendee at a film festival in San Diego 10 years ago. Admittedly, due to budget constraints and not thinking it would be selected for festival content, he had decided to shoot the film more as video art, abundant with visuals, few sound effects and complimenting music.

Miguel Ángel Font Bisier attending La Jolla Fashion Film Festival 2011. By Minh Huyhn.

While the deaf festival viewer felt lost through all the other films, she was thrilled that she could connect with Miguel Ángel‘s visually rich ‘silent’ film. She could understand the messaging through the careful detail of expressions captured in the scenes.

This coincidental encounter led to clarity for Miguel Ángel. The opportunity to make the seventh art accessible to all.

Miguel Ángel Font Bisier attending La Jolla Fashion Film Festival 2011. By Minh Huyhn.
Towards a more accessible film industry

The Valencian Community, and on a wider scale, Spain, is showing the global film industry how one socially conscious project can remove barriers and beneficially impact policy changes.

Miguel Ángel’s 2014 sci-fi short film XMILE was the culmination of a 3-year project that included the sourcing of accessibility tools, accessible resources, and involved the feedback of visually and hearing-impaired individuals. It is Miguel Ángel’s first film that combines all five senses and accessibility, enabling audience members with or without disabilities to enjoy the same experience. I am not aware of any other multisensory fully immersive film being produced with this same technique.

Audience members of XMILE’s premiere, watching the film with their eyes closed. By Sergio López.

While following Miguel Angel’s journey in the making of XMILE, it struck me: Why isn’t the film industry as a whole adopting a similar method? It would help close the communication gap that visually and hearing-impaired audiences worldwide are experiencing!

100% inclusive projects

Miguel Ángel’s approach to inclusive filmmaking has been a transformational journey that continues to evolve. His production team includes people who have different abilities working alongside, for lack of a better word, the ‘able-bodied’. A fully immersive experience for his entire project team.

Miguel Ángel Font Bisier communicating in Sign Language with a deaf member of his shooting team. By Ruth Dupiereux.

His recent projects, Blues Time (Tiempo de blues) a short film, and first feature film SWING! The Life of a Secret, were both produced by his diverse project team. Miguel Ángel is paving the way and becoming a pioneer in inclusive audiovisual production.

As I continue to gain more understanding through my exploration of accessible and inclusive cinema, I have come to realize that hearing and visually impaired audience members do not need to adjust their way of receiving communication. They are also consumers of the seventh art, so it is the responsibility of the film industry and broadcasters to adopt better methods to communicate to the deaf and blind community.

Author: Lily Kilbey

You may check my previous blog here.