Women in Film Fest: Silent Music portrays family in an isolated world

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Documentary filmmaker Melissa A. Gomez had a unique upbringing—and not just due to the tropical setting of her island home of Antigua.

The writer and producer, now based in New York City, was also raised by parents that are both deaf. Her mother and father communicated with their three hearing children through lip reading. Married for decades, the couple met as young students at a school for deaf children in Missouri.

They have developed their own way of communicating and experiencing life—in video footage included in Gomez’s film Silent Music, the pair are shown dancing to a beat they can sense through the vibrations in the floor.

But as Gomez describes in her documentary, which screens this weekend at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, this limited communication led to some challenges for her family.

Through interviews and Gomez’s narration, it becomes clear that underneath her mother Teresa’s constant smile lies a sense of loneliness, as she struggles to make friends in a country with limited resources for deaf people, far away from her friends and family in the United States.

In contrast to Teresa’s warmth and affection is the more reserved nature of Gomez’s father, Kenneth. While good humoured, the man is much more withdrawn, with few words to describe his often secretive life in his home country.

As Gomez attempts to elicit answers to what she senses are un-discussed family secrets, the interviews can be unnerving and uncomfortable to watch. Her father shrugs, laughs and offers evasive answers to the filmmaker’s persistent line of questioning, while her mother and siblings offer more personal observations.

But it's also moving to observe Gomez come to other realizations in the process of seeking what are often elusive answers.

The setting of the documentary along stunning Caribbean beaches provides a fitting backdrop for this unique story about the importance of family, and the challenges of communicating in a silent and isolated world.

Silent Music screens at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 10 at the Vancity Theatre.

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