Celebrity DJ calls subtitled films at cinema “daft”

Today gave me a whopping reminder of the power of Twitter in campaigns when “celebrity” DJ, Sara Cox managed to unite the deaf community in anger at some fairly idiotic tweets last night.

It’s a hard life being Sara. She’s goes to the cinema on a date and then, shock horror of horrors, finds the film is showing with SUBTITLES! Frankly, I would tweeted in amazement that she managed to chance upon a film that was accessible to deaf people. Instead, she describes this on Twitter as “daft”. A few people point out that actually the subtitles are there to help deaf people access films. She dismisses them with what I can only describe as a naughty Northern swear word. A huge outcry later, still going the last time I looked on Twitter, said offensive tweets were deleted and an apology issued. Apparently, she thought the subtitles were for foreigners. Daft, indeed (here’s a screengrab of her nonsense – courtesy of @Deaf on Twitter) and the story has been picked up in a couple of news outlets including the Telegraph.

Is this enough? She’s said she’s mortified at the offence caused, should we tweeters get some perspective and all move onto something else? Maybe. But I’m still pretty annoyed and disappointed by the whole thing.

Subtitled films are few and far inbetween. Deaf people can’t just turn up to watch a subtitled film. We have to plan our social lives around the few showings around and then sit with our fingers crossed through some rubbish adverts in the hope that the man in the projector box doesn’t screw up the subtitles. Deaf journalist, Charlie Swinbourne, hit the nail on the head in his article for the Guardian a while back. Deaf children and grown ups need more access, not less.

As has been powerfully pointed out by fellow deaf tweeters, thanks to an ill-informed tweet, a celebrity, with lots of followers who seem rather keen and willing to defend her views, has now helped make it legitimate and OK to complain about access for deaf people and made it harder for deaf campaigners to persuade cinema to show more subtitled films. A lot of valuable work, potentially undone. Very frustrating indeed.

I’m sure Sara is genuine in her apology. But the damage has been done and there are no naughty Northern swear words that can take it back.

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Stats on cinema access in UK

Image courtesy of NDCS

I popped along to a disability working group for cinemas yesterday and I was reminded that, however much I moan about cinema access, there have been big changes since I was a young person. And, compared to most other major countries, Britain is ahead of the pack.

Consider a few stats:

* 19 out of the top 20 UK releases last year were available with subtitles at the cinema (I think the offending omission may have been the Twilight film…)
* 300 plus cinemas have subtitled facilities, around half of all cinemas. This compares to around 20 in 2003. Those that don’t, tend to be smaller, independent cinemas.
* There are 550 subtitled films shown nationwide weekly

Apparently, the UK is the only country in the EU that offers subtitled films on this scale.

Not that there still isn’t a lot of progress to be made. Lots of subtitled films are still on only at the off-peak “graveyard” slots. “Technical problems” still crop up. And I still have a dream that one day I’ll be able to go into any cinema and ask for on-demand subtitles on any film. Encouragingly though, cinemas seem to be listening to these points, as the very existence of the disability working group shows.

But, since I’m in a good mood today, I think it’s worth praising the cinemas for the progress made so far. Do you agree that things are better than they used to be? What progress do you want to see next?

PS Just a reminder that you can see which subtitled films are showing in your area at yourlocalcinema.com.

Funding for deaf access to cinema to be cut?

Image courtesy of http://www.ukfilmcouncil.com

I spotted last week that the UK Film Council are doing a consultation on their future priorities, and I’m glad I did.

There’s no mention of access to the cinema for deaf children and adults in it. For a moment, I suddenly thought that we now live in a world where deaf children and young people can go and see any film they like with subtitles at any time whenever they like . But then I saw the pigs flying by the window and I realised I hadn’t missed an important memo somewhere. We don’t live in such a world and cinema access for deaf people, whilst much better than it used to be, could still be a lot better. So it’s pretty depressing to read that it’s not a priority for the UK Film Council.

And it’s get worse. There’s no mention of funding for existing initiatives that aim to widen access. As I understand it, existing UK Film Council funding for the award-winning one-stop shop YourLocalCinema.com website is being cut. If I didn’t have access to the YourLocalCinema.com website, it would be a lot harder for me to work out what subtitled films are showing where. I probably wouldn’t bother in the end. On top of that, capital funding to allow cinemas to buy equipment to show subtitles is also being cut. In fact, according to the consultation, only around 0.5% of the UK Film Council’s future expenditure will go towards “diversity and inclusion”, and there is no mention of anything of direct benefit to deaf children and young people. Nada.

I know I’m not alone when I say there is insufficient choice of subtitled films at convenient times at local cinemas. A lot of cinemas seem to think that deaf children’s schools are quite relaxed about them bunking off to watch a film judging by the times they schedule some subtitled films. Instead of making cuts, shouldn’t the UK Film Council should be looking at ways to widen access, by funding research into on-demand technology for subtitled films?

The consultation closes tomorrow so if you’d like to respond to their online survey, you need to be very quick. NDCS’s response can be dowloaded from here.

Be good to hear your thoughts. Are you surprised / disappointed that the UK Film Council are not making access to the cinema for deaf children and adults a priority? Leave a comment below to say what you think.

Enjoying 3D subtitles at the cinema

Image courtesy of http://www.filmofilia.com

I had a very exciting night out on Tuesday when I popped down to Greenwich to see the first ever film to be subtitled AND be in 3D!

Apparently, getting subtitled in a 3D film poses a whole range of technological challenges that it’s not been possible to fix until now. I’ve even been told that if the subtitles appeared wrong, people will throw up – without it even being a recent Eddie Murphy ‘comedy’ film. A quick glance at the screen without my 3D glasses revealed why – the subtitles have to be printed on the screen in overlapping text (and thereby impossible to read) in order to be viewable clearly in 3D.

The film that gets the honour of being the first ever 3D subtitled film is Disney’s A Christmas Carol so a big hats off to Disney. I felt obliged to go and see the film having provided a quote for a Disney press release welcoming it, but I’m pleased to say it was a very enjoyable film and the 3D effects were, as I believe the kids say, cool. When it was snowing on screen, it almost felt as it was snowing inside the cinema. That said, I remain of the firm belief that the Muppets Christmas Carol is the definitive film version of the Dickens classic.

It’s great news for deaf children and young people, who might otherwise have missed out on the opportunity to see the latest 3D films along with their hearing friends. The hope is that even more 3D films will be subtitled. I’m told that the up and coming big film, Avator will also be in subtitles and 3D.

My only gripe – and it’s not meant to detract from the achievement – is that virtually all of the showings of the film in London were either on a Sunday and Tuesday. Luckily, I was free on the Tuesday, but I did find myself grumbling “Bah! Humbug!” at the lack of choice over when I could see the film.

But in the meantime, well done to Disney for a real Christmassy treat!

PS You can find out where A Christmas Carol is showing in your area with subtitles by going to the ever helpful Yourlocalcinema.com website.

Greenwich youngsters win campaign victory on cinema access

Odeon GreenwichI heard a nice little story last week about how a group of deaf young people in south London decided to do something useful over the holidays and take action on one of my personal bugbears – lack of access to the cinema at convenient times.

The young people from Shooters Hill College and one of my colleagues from NDCS got together with the manager of Greenwich Odeon cinema to say how fed up they were that subtitled films were only being shown at rubbish times. And the result? They managed to win an agreement to a trial of more weekend screenings with occasional later screenings too. The trial will kick off in the week beginning the 5th September and you’ll be able to see times by going to the Odeon website or Your Local Cinema.com.

A great result and well done to the young people involved. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome of the review of the pilot in November. Hopefully a model for other groups of deaf children around the UK to folllow?

Cinema access website one step closer to winning top award

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Your Local Cinema.com had been nominated as Best Arts Project for the National Lottery Awards. Well, they’ve gone one better and made it to the finals!

Wowzers. If you want them to go one step even further and win the thing, then you need to get voting. You can vote online (click on ‘Best Arts Project’) or you can vote over the phone. The number is 0844 686 8020, it costs only 5p from a BT line and it’s an automated line so you can hold the line for 15 seconds without saying anything and it’ll be fine. It would be fantastic if they win…

I wasn’t allowed to talk about it before but the reason I was doing a TV interview a while back was for a feature encouraging people to vote for Your Local Cinema.com. You can see the video here but be warned that there are no subtitles. It leaves me in the slightly odd position of not being entirely sure of what I’m saying. I’ve had words with them by email and hopefully it will be sorted soon. Fortunately, I’m too pleased that they’ve made it to the final to be absolutely furious about it.

Anyhow, get voting! Votes must be in by noon on the 14th August.

UPDATE (12/8/09): You can now see the video with subtitles here.

Facing the cameras on subtitled cinema

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before – a media interview to camera. I have now recovered enough to recount my experiences.

It wasn’t actually that bad in the end. It was for Your Local Cinema.com website and I was asked a few questions about how the website had helped me as a deaf person. I explained how as a deaf child I felt left out and excluded when my hearing friends would go to see films and I couldn’t because there would be no subtitles. I almost slipped in an anecdote about how I didn’t have a clue what had happened to Bambi’s Mum when I went to see Bambi as a six year old. And I spoke about how Your Local Cinema.com is a fantastic resource.

Before the interview, I also got to practice my acting skills when I was asked to be filmed in the cinema pretending to enjoy a film. I will expect nothing less than an Oscar after doing my best faces for ‘highly amused’ and ‘overwhelmed by the drama’.

All in all, an interesting experience and I picked up some media techniques. Inevitably, I thought of lots of things to say afterwards that I should have said. I also managed to stumble over my words at one point when I said “myself and other deaf children”. But, hopefully, it will all be positive effort in helping to promote Your Local Cinema.com and it’s importance for deaf children. And hopefully NDCS too, after I cheekily wore my purple NDCS t-shirt during the interview.

A production company is putting together the material and will be sending it out to various programmes – so I’m not sure sure when it will be screened or if my piece will make the final cut – but will let you know.