Deaf Conversations about Cinema

A film club where D/deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing audiences can talk with BSL interpretation
David Ellington

Project overview

The project was set up in January 2016 after a successful six-month residence working with David Ellington as ‘Agent for Change’ funded by Art of England (South West). Watershed’s aim is to develop more inclusive cinema that welcomes D/deaf people to enjoy and be able to chat about films.


Focused on engaging better with local Deaf people, Watershed’s website was adapted so that D/deaf people could read ‘What’s On’ in English text or watch BSL (British Sign Language) video clips that were set alongside text on the same web page.  Watershed’s Calendar page was rearranged and colour highlights were used to signify which accessible language was available against a screening, i.e. blue highlights represent descriptive subtitling (DS).

Headline Results

The project has increased the number of D/deaf, HOH and hearing people attending the Watershed, and these audiences were able to share their views on directing, representation, values, cultural difference, with conversations also around soundtrack and music.


Any genres of film were selected, subjecting to DS print availability.

Key Partnerships

Local film / cultural experts were contacted, to add depth to discussions about films.

What worked

A good number of D/deaf people attended and found screenings enjoyable and discussions, about the wide range of issues such as story, representation, key theme, and music, useful.

What didn’t work

Distributors needed to be checked with in advance over the availability of Descriptive Subtitling (DS), as a few times the files were not available at the last minute. Some HOH people can struggle to follow the pace of the conversation so these were necessary. Curators were also mindful of particular themes that may arise in films, especially in relation to the portrayal of incidents such as violence, owing to the possible mental health needs of attendees.