The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center’s Rose and Don Ciampa World Cinema Series will host a screening of the silent film “WHAT?” on September 29 in honor of National Silent Film Day. Two ASL interpreters will be on site for the event, and the film will be accessible to people of all abilities.
Filmed in the black-and-white, silent comedy style of Charlie Chaplin, but set in modern-day Los Angeles, “WHAT?” tells the story of a Deaf actor who is tired of the disrespect and discrimination he confronts in Hollywood. He decides — through sign language, gestures, and whatever it takes — to take matters into his own… hands.
Starring actor John Maucere, “WHAT?” was written by Maucere along with Alek Lev and D.J. Kurs and released in 2021. The film features both Deaf and hearing actors and utilized a mixed crew, giving opportunities to Deaf artists and crew members in Hollywood. Five languages were used on set – American Sign Language, Catalan Sign Language, German Sign Language, spoken German, and spoken English.
Directed by Lev, Maucere said that the film’s purpose was to break barriers by showing the audience, Deaf and hearing, that they can experience laughter and empathy simultaneously from a silent film.
Says WHBPAC Director of Sales Allison Frost, “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity as part of our Finest in World Cinema program. Here’s a film that evokes the spirit of the silent classics like ‘Modern Times,’ ‘The General,’ and ‘Safety Last!’ through tributes in shooting locations, physical comedy, and sight gags. It’s a return to the ‘golden era’ of cinema for the Deaf community – when silent movies could be enjoyed by deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons. And yet, the heart of the film is something that both Deaf and hearing audiences will readily identify with – being seen for who you are.”
Tickets are $13 plus fees and can be purchased at whbpac.org.