2018’s Academy Awards Marks First Time Two Sign Language Films Won

Three films nominated, two of them won

This year the first time that three films with sign language were nominated at the Academy Awards and two of them won- The Shape of Water and The Silent Child.

Best Live Action Short Film – The Silent Child

The Silent Child won Best Live Action Short Film and the Oscar was given to director Chris Overton and screenwriter Rachel Shenton.

Upon receiving the golden statue, Shenton gave her acceptance speech in BSL-British Sign Language. She is a CODA (child of deaf adult) and learned sign language after her father passed away from cancer. Her father became deaf during chemotherapy; Shenton learned sign language and became an interpreter while pursuing her film career. She screenwrote The Silent Child to raise awareness of the importance of language.

Best Director, Best Picture, Best Production, and Best Original Score- The Shape Of Water

The record breaking winner is The Shape Of Water with its five wins; including Best Picture and Best Director.

The Shape Of Water is about a mute woman who uses ASL for communication and a sea creature that her government captures. They both fall in love and she helps him escape the facility where he is held captive.

The film’s use of a silent main character and usage of sign language is a standout from the popular speaking main characters; it shows that a rich film can be made with a silent main character. The film won for Best Production, Best Original Score, Best Director, and Best Picture. The director, Guillermo del Toro explains in an interview:

“What is beautiful for me is that every single character that has the power of speech has problems communicating,” del Toro says. “And the two characters that [do not have] the power of speech — they are mute or wordless — they are actually communicating beautifully.” – From an interview with Rachel Martin at National Public Radio

Del Toro beaming after win for Best Picture

Congratulations to the winners! We look forward to more films with sign language in the future. 

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