Deaf Jam

Deaf Jam

  • BY Judy Lieff | IN Arts & Culture
    Premiered November 3, 2011

About the Film

Aneta Brodski is an Israeli-born teenager living in Queens, New York. She is passionate and driven and well liked by her high school classmates. Unique among her classmates, Aneta longs to fully participate in the hearing world. MORE

While she is proud of her deafness, she does not want to be defined by it. She longs to be understood by everyone around her in the bustling city. Some of her classmates feel that Deaf culture is — and should be — claimed by a fierce embrace of deaf identity and respect for the unique beauty of its language.

At her school, Aneta joins an extracurricular program to learn American Sign Language poetry. She and her fellow students gradually find their inner voice in the poems they create. Aneta’s world opens up as she is tantalized by the possibility of competing in a poetry slam with mostly hearing competitors.

With ties to rap and hip-hop culture, the U.S. National Poetry Slams for youth have gained momentum across the country, highlighting a highly verbal and rhythmic form of self-expression. Aneta is one of the first deaf youth to participate in a major slam event, and despite some initial anxiety about how the deaf performers might be received, she courageously takes the stage.

In a remarkable twist of fate, Aneta meets and then collaborates with Tahani — a hearing Palestinian slam poet. They create a hearing/deaf duet touching on their shared personal and cultural experiences — generating a new form of slam poetry that crosses boundaries, cultures, and languages.

The Filmmaker

Judy Lieff is a filmmaker and teacher. After a career as a professional dancer, she earned an MFA in dance and experimental film/video from the California Institute of the Arts. She began her relationship with the Deaf community through the making of an award winning experimental film Duties of My Heart, featuring Terrylene Sacchetti, one of the poet mentors featured in Deaf Jam. Judy is a six-time grant recipient for dance/media projects including a National Dance/Media fellowship from the Pew Charitable Trusts. LESS

Film Credits

Produced and Directed by
Judy Lieff

Co-Producer for City Lore
Steve Zeitlin

Keiko Deguchi

Sound Designer and Recording Mixer
Tom Paul

Sound Editors
Paul Berkovitch
Alicia Hook

Directors of Photography
Melissa Donovan
Claudia Raschke Robinson

Associate Producer
Liz Wolter

Featured ASL Poet
Aneta Brodski

Teen Poets
Semion Abayev
Danny Biland
Robert Haughton
John Horacio
Amanda Gonzalez
Hinda Kasher
Joshua Masas
Kenneth Montanez
Aron Moses
Wanda Nivol
Tremaine Parkinson
Iram Shezadi
Mike Wagner
Brandon Williams
Shiran Agin-Zhavian

Urban Word Poets
Roxy Azari
Albe Back
Amanda Diva
Ellison Glenn
Kesed Ragin

Additional Participants
Jason Norman
Lauren Ridloff

Art Director - Titles and Graphics
Scott Kawczynski

Opening Title Animation
Cassidy Gearhart

Vidlit Productions

Motion Graphics
Max Ralston

Production Sound Engineers
Kristian Borysevicz
Judy Karp
John Sember

Additional Editing
Dena Mermelstein
Judy Lieff

Additional Camera
Mia Barker
Marcus Burnett
Nick Doob
Alan Hostetter
Linda Lewett
Judy Lieff
Martina Radwan
Charlie Steiner

Assistant Editors
Lauren Rosen
Jennifer Hanna
Ricardo Springer

Production Assistants
Cat Gulacsy
Hannah Carpenter

On-line Editor
Jacek Kropinski

On-line Facility
Post Brooklyn

Michael Wimberly

Original Music
Ian Miller

Music Supervisor
Frank Palazzo

Sound Mix Facility
Gigantic Studios

Still Photographers
Martha Cooper
Brian Geltner

ASL Translation
Jeremy Sanchez

ASL Interpreters
Veronica Staehle
Mia Pennywell
Aviva Benshrit
Candace Davider
Jennifer Kagan
Rick Rubin

Project Consultants
H. Dirksen Bauman
Lori Cheatle
JoAnn Dean
Bob Holman
Terrylene Sacchetti

Story Consultants
Jennifer Fox
Toby Shimin

Gray Krauss Des Rochers LLP

Archival Photos and Footage
American School for the Deaf Museum
Clarke School for the Deaf
Gallaudet University Archives
Maryland School for the Deaf
The National Archives
Rochester Institute of Technology
Richard Schoenberg


"Broken Vibes"
Written and Performed by
Taylor McFerrin and Vincent Parker

Written and performed by
Cyro Baptista
By arrangement with "A" Side Music

Written and performed by
Vieux Farka Toure
(featuring Toumani Diabate)
Licensed courtesy of Domino
Publishing Limited (PRS)

Written by Brian Marsella
Performed by Cyro Baptista
By arrangement with "A" Side Music

Written by Nate McIntosh
Performed by Youngblood Brass Band
Published by Layered Music

"Lamento Mourisco"
Written by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz
Performed by Cyro Baptista
By arrangement with "A" Side Music

"Rock to It"
Written by Shadrach Kango
Performed by Shad
Published by Shadrach Kango

"Rio de Jakarta"
Written and performed by
Cyro Baptista
By arrangement with "A" Side Music

Written and performed by
Vieux Farka Toure
(featuring Ali Farka Toure)
Licensed courtesy of Domino
Publishing Limited (PRS)

"Tap on the Cajon"
Written and performed by
Cyro Baptista
By arrangement with "A" Side Music

"O Canto Da Ema"
Written by
Alventino Cavalcante de Souza,
Ayres Vianna, and Joao Batista Vale
Performed by Cyro Baptista
By Arrangement with Fermata
International Melodies, Inc.

Written by Collin Wolcott
Performed by Cyro Baptista &
Banquet of the Spirits

"God Didn't Make No Walmart"
Written by Cyro Baptista and Kevin Joseph Breit
Performed by Cyro Baptista
By arrangement with “A” Side Music

Special Thanks
Eleonora Alberto
Jean Bergey
The Brodski Family
Gina Carroll
Debra Cohen
Felix Endara
Penelope Falk
Marina Gonzalez
Danny Kapilian
Michael Levine
Miriam Lerner
Lexington School for the Deaf
Brian Miller
Modiba Productions
Jane Moran
Becky Simmons
Jennifer Shufro
Benh Zeitlin

Fiscal Sponsors
City Lore
Bowery Arts and Science
The New York Foundation for the Arts
Urban World NYC

Funding for This Program Was Provided by
National Endowment for the Arts
The Rockefeller Foundation
The New York State Council on the Arts
Joanne Nerenberg
Howard Jackson
Nowell Karten
Richard Weber

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Deaf Jam is a co-production of Made-By-Hand, LLC
and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funding provided by
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Deaf Jam is produced by Made-By-Hand, LLC,
who is solely responsible for its content.

© 2011 Made-By-Hand, LLC. All rights reserved.

Should American Sign Language Poetry be included in poetry and literature curriculum of U.S. schools?


  • 2012 Japan Prize
    Best Work of the Youth Category
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Should American Sign Language Poetry be included in poetry and literature curriculum of U.S. schools?