Student film shortlisted for British Documentary Awards
Make Me Louder follows the journey of deaf student actor Lee O'Brien who decides to undergo a cochlear implant, which recreates the body's hearing mechanism electronically, promising to give a much better sense of hearing and speech understanding.
The documentary produced and directed by Neil Maclean and Nishad Chaughule - who both completed their MA in Filmmaking at Leeds Met's Northern Film School last month - is one of eight contending films in the category of Sky Atlantic Best Student Documentary. Final nominations for the 41st annual awards will be announced on 17 September prior to the star-studded ceremony at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on 4 November.
Neil commented: "Given the subject of our documentary, Make Me Louder is very close to our hearts and we could not be more delighted at this shortlisting. It is very satisfying to have our work recognised at this level and we're hoping that it will help generate greater interest in the film.
"Lee was a fellow student on the Masters' filmmaking course, however although we had been on the same course for a year he had always been somewhat isolated from the other students. When he told us about the operation we saw it as a chance to bridge the gap that existed between us and build a better understanding, and we decided to make a film together about his experience.
"For Lee the decision to have the implant was not easy, he had grown up in the deaf community having gone to a residential school from a young age. However, he wanted to build a better relationship with his family, who are all hearing, and with whom communication had always been difficult. Another important motivation was to improve his career prospects as an actor.
"Make Me Louder follows Lee in the run up to his operation and then his adaptation to the implant in the months afterwards. We wanted the film to get an insight into Lee's life and to show the deaf experience from a personal perspective - a world that is not often seen by mainstream society. We also wanted to show if Lee's expectations for the implant were met."
Nishad is currently living in Pune, India, but plans to return to Leeds in the near future to work on further projects with fellow Leeds Met Northern Film School graduates. He said: "Make Me Louder was shot in and around Leeds, Bradford and some parts of Liverpool. We have sent the film to many 'short documentary' categories for film festivals worldwide and are waiting to hear from them."
Lee, who is represented by VisABLE, the UK's first professional agency for actors and models with disabilities, commented: "When I applied to undertake the MA Filmmaking course, I was given an unconditional offer with screen acting as my speciality. Believe it or not, I'm the first deaf person to complete this course at the Northern Film School and I'm very proud of this achievement.
"For the last decade, I have been acting in stage productions and short films across the UK. There are many barriers and obstacles that deaf people face from society's attitudes to the deaf community. This is still happening today.
"I was born profoundly deaf as a result of a brain haemorrhage. I am a twin, my sister is hearing. I have two brothers and two sisters and my parents all of whom are hearing. My hearing began to deteriorate a few years ago and even with digital hearing aids I couldn't hear at all. I was advised to get a cochlear implant and I was reluctant at first, but I didn't want to be left out from my family.
"I did some research and met some people who had had the implant and it had changed their lives. I decided to discuss it with my family and they agreed it was the correct time to improve my strategies in overcoming my difficulties with my deafness and speech.
"I asked Neil and Nishad if they could make a documentary about my journey having the cochlear implantation and I explained the complications that I was facing surrounding my deafness and identity. I was pleased that Make Me Louder was made showing my personal journey which has been a very difficult process for me because it is a very personal story. It wasn't natural for me to talk about my disability on a documentary film, it was at times embarrassing. I now feel it took courage and endurance and it was a privilege which will probably stay with me forever.
"I do not want other deaf people facing same the difficulties that I went through. I'm fitted with a Nucleus 5 cochlear implant and I can now hear sounds that I have not heard before, including my voice. I may not speak accurately, but I am getting there, to learn to hear and to speak is a long on-going intensive process and I do feel this is my human and equal right, to hear and to use my voice because my voice is not broken. I have to say it is nice to be a British Sign Language user, in my world if you teach me to speak, I teach you to sign. I want to have social inclusion and to have freedom."