Next Festival Event: Thursday August 5th (Stream for FREE all day)

Bookmark this page and come back at midnight EST on Thursday August 5th to watch this amazing festival. Then you’ll have 30 hours to watch. Then the link shuts down.

A showcase of a comedy BLACK & WHITE Feature Film…..

WHAT?, 90 minutes, USA, Comedy
Directed by Alek Lev

WHAT? is a black and white, not-so-silent comedy about a struggling deaf actor, sick of agreeing to increasingly humiliating tasks just to get a role, who decides to take matters into his own… hands.

Project Links

Director Statement – Alek Lev

In 1995, I found my way to The National Theatre of the Deaf, the first professional theater for Deaf actors in the world. I’m hearing, but had started to learn ASL, and through three summers of NTD’s intensive theater program I became fluent in the language, and went on to tour with the company. I’ve since worked extensively with Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles as a director, actor, and interpreter. As a whole, Deaf actors are no different than hearing ones; some a brilliant and some not. But what is unquestionably unique about Deaf performances on stage or on screen is that the use of sign language requires a physicality completely different than what spoken language demands. And while the meaning of ASL is completely opaque to the non-signer, there are aspects of the language that are more “iconic” and can be understood universally by Deaf and hearing alike, making it a particularly powerful took for story telling. ASL, then, was the first ingredient of this film…

In the same year I discovered ASL, I discovered Buster Keaton. For the nearly quarter-century since then, I have been watching, studying, and writing about Keaton, and for the last few years, as Vice President of the International Buster Keaton Society, I’ve been working to preserve his legacy and introduce him to new fans across the globe. Mostly, however, what Buster Keaton does is inspire me, and he reminds me – especially when I’m watching his films in a packed 500-seat theater with kids and their grandparents – that silent films can still be vibrant and moving, and silent comedy can bring laughs across all ages and cultures. Silent filmmaking was the second ingredient.

Finally, there was John Maucere. He is a Deaf actor who regularly performs around the world, and who starred in the feature film, “No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie” back in 2013. It’s hard to describe what makes someone a “great signer,” but imagine the verbal dexterity of Eminem, the quick comic mind of Ricky Gervais, and the mime skills of Marcel Marceau. Then there is his sheer performing talent, which runs the spectrum from unbridled game show host to subtle, heart-piercing dramatic actor. But… where are the roles for him? Who is willing to see past their pre-conceived notions, and recognize the artist at his core? John Maucere, then, is the third ingredient.

WHAT? combines American Sign Language, silent filmmaking, and John Maucere, along with team of Deaf and hearing producers, cast, crew, and investors, and asks why is it that this community of actors and this genre of film, perhaps uniquely situated together to appeal to the widest of audiences, is considered to be a niche within a niche? It has nothing to do with Deaf vs. hearing, ASL vs. English. The question is: What does it take to be seen?