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October 30, 2016

How the Deaf and Blind Appreciate Movies Like Frozen

Mr. Edgardo Bong Garcia, President of Deaf-Blind Support Philippines, with his family


Disney’s animated fantasy musical got us all singing “Let It Go”, out loud or in our heads, for days on end. Some of us may have probably seen the movie where it came from, “Frozen”, a thousand times. This record-breaking film is a must-see, not just for its magical visuals but also for the inspiring songs and music within the story. It would be a shame for anyone not to see it – including the visual and hearing impaired among us.

Fortunately, some of the students and faculty of the Philippine School for the Deaf and the Philippine School for the Blind got to enjoy the movie musical in all its glory. “Frozen” was one of three movies that SM is featuring on the second leg of its Movies for the Deaf and Blind program under its CSR arm, SM Cares. The Angelina Jolie-starrer “Maleficent” and the fantasy action film “Pan” are the other two films that the deaf and blind audiences can now enjoy in 20 SM cinemas nationwide.

In this kind of special movie, audio-description and closed captioning features are used. The audio-description involves a narrator who describes every key visual element in the movie that the blind is not able to see: the action, scene changes, the actors’ gestures, facial expressions, costumes, and even on-screen text. The narration is inserted in between pauses or in gaps within dialogues whenever possible so that the blind audience can follow and understand the unfolding story.

Closed captioning, on the other hand, is a higher level of “subtitles” as we know it. It transcribes the dialogue between the characters in the film and flashed directly below the scene. What makes it work better for the deaf audience is the fact that even the sound effects, ambient noise, and other sound that are important in the scenes are included in the caption.


“Frozen” being an animated film and a musical, one would think that it would be a stretch for either the deaf or the blind to fully appreciate it. But Mrs. Ligaya Coral, a 30-year teacher at the Philippine School for the Deaf proudly claims that the deaf students and their families actually loved the movie experience, adding that they can even perform the songs themselves through sign language.

“We are thankful that there are movies like these now. The kids can appreciate the movie without needing an interpreter for them to know what’s happening in the story,” Mrs. Coral said.
Ms. Liza Lyn Lopez, a blind teacher, especially loved “Love Is An Open Door”, a duet between Anna and Prince Hans. “This kind of project means a lot because we, the disabled, rarely get exposed to something like this,” she said, referring to the movie experience. 


Right now, a law had already been passed for using closed captioning in local productions. The MTRCB hopes to follow this up with audio-description soon. With partnerships between the private and public sector like SM, Deaf Blind Support Philippines, CALL Foundation of the Blind, and MTRCB, it would be possible to expect vernacular versions of audio-descriptive and close captioned movies as well.

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