Jan 2021 Variety
Oscar-winning actor Marlee Matlin has boarded Doug Roland’s short film “Feeling Through” — one of the first films to feature a deaf-blind actor in a leading role — as an executive producer. The coming-of-age story follows Tereek (Steven Prescod), a teen wandering the streets of New York, desperate for a place to crash when he encounters Artie (Robert Tarango), a deaf-blind man in need of help getting home. What begins as an awkward meeting between strangers quickly becomes an intimate bond between friends.
First-time actor Robert Tarango was discovered while working in the kitchen at Helen Keller National Centre, a division of Helen Keller Services which enables individuals who are blind, visually impaired, deaf-blind, or have combined hearing and vision loss to live and work in the communities of their choice. Matlin, a Golden Globe and Oscar winner for “Children of a Lesser God” (1987), and her long-time interpreter and producer Jack Jason join Andrew Carlberg (“Skin”) as executive producers on the film, which has been selected for international film festivals including Tirana, Florida and Indy Shorts.
The project picked up the jury award at the Ojai Film Festival, the Audience Award at San Diego International Film Festival, and was the first runner up at the Oscar-qualifying Bengaluru International Short Film Festival. The film will screen online as part of Slamdance in February.
Roland partnered with Helen Keller Services while making the film, and the org is also helping to facilitate fully accessible in-person and virtual screenings across the U.S.
The film is accompanied by three-part screening event “The Feeling Through Experience,” which includes as many as 50 interpreters and support staff at a single screening to provide one-on-one accessibility for moviegoers of any level of vision and/or hearing loss. Since the pandemic, Roland has held accessible live streams of the initiative for thousands of viewers.
Matlin is, to date, the only deaf performer to have won an Academy Award. Having won the best actress prize at 21, she is also the youngest winner in the category. Her work in film and television has resulted in a Golden Globe award, with two additional nominations, and four Emmy nominations. Deaf since she was 18 months old, she is also a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf.