In amongst all the grand glitz and glamour of The Oscars there was a little short film hailing from the UK, drawing your attention to life in a silent world. The film explores a deaf child’s difficulty of understanding and communicating whilst not being able to hear the sounds of the world around her. ‘The Silent Child’ shone bright winning the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. Written by Rachel Shenton, and directed by Chris Overton.
The Silent Child centres around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby (played by Maisie Sly). Libby is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence. Her world changes when a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication through sign language.
Profoundly deaf Maisie Sly, aged six, is from Swindon and has never acted before. The filmmakers conducted a national wide search interviewing over 100 children until Maisie walked through the door when they immediately knew that they had their Libby. Rachel Shenton who plays Libby’s social worker and communication catalyst also wrote the screenplay. Shenton, from Stoke-on-Trent, was inspired to write the film by her father, who went deaf after receiving treatment for chemotherapy when she was 12. In order to communicate with her father she learnt sign language and became a qualified British Sign Language interpreter and ambassador for the National Deaf Children’s Society. The film is directed by Chris Overton (Shenton’s partner), they both met whilst acting in a british soap.
Giving her acceptance speech complete with sign language, Shenton said:
“Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence. It’s not exaggerated or sensationalised for the movie”
“This is happening. Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, and particularly access to education.”
“Deafness is a silent disability. You can’t see it and it’s not life threatening so I want to say the biggest of thank yous to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience.”
Shenton in an interview said it had been over 30 years since an Oscar acceptance speech was made with sign language.
Behind the Scenes
The Silent Child
2017, 20 mins
WINNER Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.
Directed by Chris Overton
Written by Rachel Shenton