Among the highlights of the short film categories at last year’s Urbanworld Film Festival in NYC wa a short making the festival rounds worldwide, “White Space.”
Written and directed by poet & writer Maya Washington, the film follows the inner life of a deaf man as he makes his debut at a popular open-mic night and hopes that the language of his heart can emancipate the inner voice and transcend the white space between a hearing audience and a deaf man’s soul.
Produced by Freddy F. Hakimi, “White Space” stars actor Ryan T. Lane, actor/comedian, CJ Jones (an oft-consulted advocate for the deaf whom most may remember from the “A Word in Edgewise” episode of “A Different World” – 1991), DEAFestival LA 2010 Award winner Zendrea Mitchell and NAACP Award winner Tanya Alexander.
The film itself has a nice flow to it, as we follow the hesitancy of The Poet to share himself with the world, and also the performance segment is both shot and directed tenderly and expertly.
“White Space” has been an Official Selection of over 26 international film festivals to date and won Best Short at The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and the Hollywood Black Film Festival among other awards and nominations. Additionally, Washington edited the White Space Poetry Anthology, a poetry collection featuring the work of new and award-winning deaf and hearing artists, available through the project website and Amazon, that serves as a companion collection to the film.
The filmmakers have used the film as a tool to connect communities through film and poetry and have taken it into schools, creative communities and film festivals throughout the world.
“We all know there’s not a lot of roles for deaf actors or performers. We are a part of society that gets overlooked in Hollywood. People like Maya and projects like ‘White Space’ and ‘Switched at Birth’ help us get noticed and create more awareness of Deaf Culture,” signed Ryan Lane at the film’s online release celebration on August 30th, the exact 3-year anniversary of the film’s production shoot. Lane, Washington, cast members (including deaf comedian CJ Jones), and members of White Space Poetry Project, came together for an afternoon of live ASL poetry, spoken word, literary poetry, and music, hosted by Boardwalk 11 in Los Angeles with floral design by the world-renowned French Florist.
Also in attendance were Switched at Birth cast members BK Cannon (“Switched at Birth”), Stephanie Nogueras (“Switched at Birth”), Tina Huang (“Rizzoli & Isles,” “Switched at Birth”), and Matthew Kane (“Once Upon a Time,” “Switched at Birth”). Actor/writer Blake Cooper Griffin (“Ride,” “It Could Be Worse”), “Delena Cortez,” PR Director of Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), and Marc Bovee, Founder and Chairman of Global Event & Media Accessibility Initiative (GEMAI), were also on hand along with a number of White Space Poetry Project supporters. YouTube “Signalong” sensations Tina Cleveland and Paul Sirimarco also made an appearance on the red carpet.
A Minneapolis native holding a MFA in Writing from Hamline University and BA in Theatre from the University of Southern California, writer/director Maya Washington is also a Fellow and member of Cave Canem, a home for the many voices of African American poetry, and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. Her poems and monologues have appeared in The Playwrights’ Center Monologues for Women (Heinemann Drama, 2005), Gulf Coast, Talking Stick, Angel Face, Rock Paper Scissors. She also wrote the full-length play “South of Adams, West of Figueroa,” which was part of the 2008 August Wilson Playwriting Initiative in Chicago. See more about her on her website and more about the film on White Space Poetry’s blog.
The film has been made available online and is embedded below for you to watch: