Cinema For The Deaf: Fabrizio Savarese’s Dream

deaf cinema
Photo courtesy of Fabrizio Savarese.

Fabrizio Savarese loves cinema and fights for the right of deaf people to see movies with subtitles: our interview

Fabrizio, thank you for the interview! First of all, we would like to know more about your dream of creating an international film festival for deaf people. What is it exactly about? Have you already started the project?

First of all, thank you for this interview: it is very important for me. It would be great if there were an international film festival for deaf people in Milan or Brescia, where many deaf people who are also cinema fans live. This means a lot to me and to many other people. The project is pretty simple: it’s about inviting worldwide famous deaf actors to tell their stories in front of the public. The American deaf actress Marlee Beth Matlin, for example, won the Academy Award as best leading actress in Children of a Lesser God (1986), being the first deaf actress to win an Oscar. I know other foreign deaf actors, but no Italians. This is why I’d like to welcome here international actors. Unfortunately, I haven’t started the project yet, because I am not able to find adequate funding and I struggle to find contacts for such a project.

In your city, Brescia, you started a collaboration with a movie house to activate a room designed for deaf people. The films are screened with subtitles in Italian or directly in sign language?

The original films are all projected with Italian subtitles. Every Tuesday, one movie is released at WIZ cinema, whereas on Thursday there’s another show at OZ cinema.

How did the city community react to your initiative?

The people of Brescia welcomed enthusiastically my useful initiative. At the beginning, most people did not realize there was a screening room for deaf people. Then, I started publishing the weekly program on Facebook and Linkedin and some people who found out about it on social media thanked me. They are all enthusiastic and happy for me. Even some foreigners were grateful after being able to finally understand the films! I’m satisfied.

Would you like to export your idea to other Italian cities?

Of course. I’d love it, because I’m sorry so many deaf people can’t see the original films. Nobody thinks about that, but by helping you can break down barriers with passion and heart. We need to find a better solution for a useful collaboration with other cinemas or distribution houses. I’m ready and willing to hear any proposal and solve this problem.

What level of inclusion is there for deaf people or for those with other disabilities in the context of cultural initiatives in Italy?

A very low level. We need to work harder to identify and understand what are the problems and how to solve them. I’m personally satisfied with my own cinema project, but I’d like to do more and satisfy my deaf friends by enabling them to watch the subtitled films. You just slowly learn and improve.

In Italy, we have a long tradition of film dubbing, thus it is always difficult to find cinemas where films in the original language are projected with subtitles. However, in other European countries, it is normal to watch movies in the original language. What do you think this cultural difference is due to?

Italy is lagging far behind in guaranteeing rights that should be already acquired, given the rights to equality enshrined in the constitution. This is beacuse our country does not reward courage. Problems like these are present even on some television channels: for example, my wife (who is deaf as well) would like to watch C’è posta per te on TV, but she can’t because of the lack of subtitles. She also tried to send an e-mail to Mediaset, but without success. My dream is that media companies finally start to understand the importance of subtitles and provide everyone with them.

Does an Italian film tradition in sign language or with the participation of deaf actors already exist?

I don’t think so. I heard about an international film festival for deaf people in Rome, but I have never been invited there. I sent them a message, but in vain.

You have also started a Facebook group where you regularly share news and insights about cinema. Did you manage to get some good traction? And do you think this can help your cause?

I chose Facebook because it allows to build relationships with people that you don’t know in person. I feel responsible for letting the fans know what’s on at the movies, and letting them discover and browse. My passion for cinema is great and often films help us to review and understand important historical periods or characters. I ask everyone to support my group ‘MOVIE NEWS’ on Facebook and add a lot of friends. If you have an idea you can also contact me via private message. I am there on Facebook! I also use both Instagram and LinkedIn. We can finally say yes to a cinema for the deaf because, although nowadays you can see all kinds of movies on the Internet, going to the cinema is magic and encourages friendship.

How did you come to love cinema and what do you think about the recent Italian productions?

My passion started very early, back in 1989. That year, for the first time in my life, I went to the movies in Crema — where I was born — together with my childhood friend, Luca, to see my first film: Batman. The 1989 film directed by Tim Burton is based on the eponymous DC Comics character played by Michael Keaton, with Jack Nicholson as the super-criminal Joker. As I watched the film, I felt excited and enthusiastic because Batman knew how to defeat his number one enemy: Joker. I wanted to see the film that fascinated me so much over and over again! That’s where my passion for cinema was born. Then, in 1996, I saw together with my father a film that I had always desperately wanted to watch and that would later became my favourite movie: Indipendence Day. Directed by Roland Emmerich, this 1996 science fiction film is about an imaginary and almost successful alien invasion of Earth, with the destruction of several monuments that are the symbols of the United States, such as the Empire State Building, the White House and the Los Angeles Library Tower. I had never seen before a movie with so many special effects. I was truly impressed.

Thus, I got into cinema thanks to these productions that I still can’t forget. I feel a great sense of wonder when I watch beautiful and interesting films like Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump or other true stories that manage to make me understand the different realities of the world. I like horror movies or science fictions, but in particular true stories is something I’m interested in. Did you ask me about the Italian productions? Please, let’s change the subject. To tell the truth, Italian productions make movies for the only purpose of laughing.

Are you confident that your beautiful initiatives will be welcomed more and more positively in the future?

I hope so with all my heart! At first, I thought it was impossible to screen original films with subtitles at the cinema, but I had faith in myself. Then, I had a meeting with the deputy mayor of my city, where I told him about my project with no results. Later, my friend Alessandro Cantoni contacted the owner of OZ cinema and, after some months of collaboration, I finally managed to fulfill the dream of a room for deaf people. I especially thank the responsible of this cinema, Omar Frusca, for supporting me. Without him it would have been impossible. Now, I’d like to work also with other cinemas to find a better solution and understand how to achieve something useful and develop new ideas.

At least one cinema in every city should dedicate a weekly screening with subtitles in Italian to deaf peolpe, as it already happens in Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Turin and other big cities in northern Italy. I’d like to create a new cinema movement for deaf and hearing-impaired people, including deaf actors who come from places like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, in order to help foreigners and give hope to those afflicted by war or poverty, because cinema is culture and knowledge.