Image Credit: ‘Louder Than Words,’ Dekkoo

This week, April 15 – 21, marks National Deaf LGBTQ+ Awareness Week, a project launched by the Deaf Queer Resource Center to uplift, support, and bring greater visibility to these multiply marginalized communities. Every day this week, Queerty will be spotlighting a short film that focuses on deaf, queer characters—all of which you can watch right now.

When it comes to bringing deaf stories to the screen, we can’t overstate how important it is to actually have deaf talent involved, on-screen and off.

Especially in the wake of CODA‘s Oscar-winning success, there seems to be a greater investment in creating space for these stories, but it only does so much good for the community if deaf talent are not welcomed to the table.

Of course, not unlike the ongoing effort to cast more LGBTQ+ performers in queer roles, it’s not always so black-and-white. And while we’ve recently put the spotlight on short films that feature deaf actors (John McGinty in Sign, Ian Vasquez in Ode To Pablo), there’s also an argument to be made for hearing actors who use their platforms to amplify deaf-inclusive narratives—so long as they approach the work authentically.

With that in mind, today’s short, Louder Than Words, happens to feature a familiar face: actor-singer-dancer Marty Lauter, perhaps best known as RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15’s Marcia Marcia Marcia.

Image Credit: ‘Louder Than Words,’ Dekkoo

As we know, Lauter is not deaf themself, but they beautifully portray a young, deaf dancer-in-training named Niall, learning American Sign Language for the role.

Louder Than Words opens on Niall training for a dance recital with his friend Kenya (Apryl Wilson) when a young musician named Ansel (Luke Farley) barges in, guitar in hand. Studio space is limited, and after an initial misunderstanding, the three agree to share a room so they can all get their practice in.

Session after session, the three grow closer as the Ansel awkwardly fumbles his was through communicating, all while Niall, an avid lip-reader, has no issue understanding what the musician is saying. What he’s not sure of is whether or not Ansel is catching feelings—and whether those feelings are for him or Kenya.

We won’t spoil any more of the story here, but will just add that Louder Than Words is sure to give you butterflies. The gentle score (which is often times just the strum of Ansel’s guitar), the gorgeous cinematography, the fluidity of the choreography all work in tandem to deliver something special.

Image Credit: ‘Louder Than Words,’ Dekkoo

And Lauter—Miss “Marcia Cubed” herself—is truly wonderful in the lead role, giving an affecting, genuine performance. They’ve already got a buzzy role in the latest Broadway production of Cabaret, but this short makes a case for why they should remain booked and busy.

The short comes from Jamaican-American filmmaker Julio Dowansingh, who was inspired by the way deaf people feel sound through vibrations, and set out to tell with “positive representation that deaf and queer people could engage with and enjoy.”

Speaking with Dekkoo, Dowansingh shared he consulted with deaf friends on the story and took the time to learn ASL himself before going into production.

“After the film was released, I got fan letters from some queer deaf people telling me how deeply they connected with the film which was one of my goals,” the writer-director said. “I made this film for those people, and the fact that they related to these characters was more than I could ever ask for.”

Louder Than Words made its streaming premiere on Dekkoo a few years back, though you can now watch the full 16-minute short on YouTube below:

And, for more ways to help support, celebrate and participate in #DeafLGBTQWeek, head to the website for the Deaf Queer Resource Center.

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