SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Feeling Through centres on Tereek (a vulnerable Steven Prescod) as he searches for a place to stay for the night. He meets Artie (Robert Tarango) smiling and waiting patiently on a street corner. Artie is deaf and blind, but Tereek figures out how to talk to him and is soon helping Artie find the bus stop. This unexpected encounter will leave Tereek with a new understanding of the people that surround him every day.
It is inevitable that, upon watching shorts about disabilities, one would find a title that is intensely personal. About a year ago, I met writer-director Doug Roland, and we discussed our shared interest in making films about deaf-blind life. I am deaf-blind, and actor Robert Tarango is as well. Deaf-blind representation is essential because not enough people know that we exist and can lead fulfilling lives with the right supports. Feeling Through brings visibility to an underrepresented group that is worth something all by itself.
I was uncomfortable with Artie’s dependency on Tereek and was hoping to see him do more things independently, such as buying a few items at a convenience store. But I do appreciate that, reading between the lines, one can surmise that Artie went by himself on a date. The truth is that deaf-blind folks have varying levels of independence and access to support, and this may just happen to be one person’s truth, which is no less valid due to it not being my own. I am fortunate to have many supports that presumably Artie did not or does not have.
“…as he searches for a place to stay for the night. He meets Artie…”
A short film is only a taste of characters, and the best will not tell you everything you would want to know. Heck, even a feature-length film might not do that, either. That being said, I would have liked to learn more about Tereek and Artie and how they were brought to the point that they met in this film. I wonder how Tereek changes as a result of meeting a deaf-blind individual. It is a bit old hat to have an able-bodied character ‘transform’ after meeting someone with a disability; however, I cared about Tereek and was invested in his arc.
I also cared about Artie and was wondering whether his life would be better improved if he had access to the same services I do. I wonder why his date did not go well. I wonder if he knows that he does not need to trust strangers but chooses to do so every day or every so often. I wish that I could trust people like him, but it is hard to let walls down. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it that much harder to build trust.
Feeling Through does rely on cliches to get its point across. But the acting elicits empathy for these characters, and the writing invests one into their story. While slight, Roland proves, once again, that representation matters.
Feeling Through screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…brings visibility to an underrepresented group..."