A profoundly deaf six year-old girl from Swindon is heading for Hollywood after a film she starred in, designed to promote awareness around hearing impairment, was shortlisted for the Oscars.
Maisie Sly plays a deaf girl struggling in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication via sign language, in The Silent Child.
The 20-minute short has already won critical acclaim and awards at international film festivals.
Now it has made the shortlist of ten contenders for Best Live Action Short at this year’s Academy Awards. The final five will be revealed later this month.
The Silent Child was written by Rachel Shenton, a former Hollyoaks actress, who was inspired by her experience of coping with her deaf father.
Maisie was cast after the producers auditioned 100 deaf and hard-of-hearing children for the part.
Maisie travelled with her parents, who are also deaf, to the Rhode Island International Film Festival, where the film won the Best Live Action Short award.
Her father Gilson said: “Maisie is extremely excited about the potential Oscar nomination, its amazing the journey we have been on as a family. She’s hoping for another trip to America.”
Maisie plays Libby, whose feelings of isolation lead to behavioural problems. When she learns to communicate via sign language, her middle-class family realise that Maisie is not a “broken daughter” who needs “fixing”. Gilson said: “Simply putting British Sign Language into the National Curriculum can change the life experiences of everyone involved, not just the Deaf community but the whole wider community.”
Shenton starred in pioneering US drama Switched At Birth Ms Shenton said: “Because you can’t see ‘deafness’ and you it’s not life-threatening, it’s hard for people to understand that deafness is not a learning disability.”
“We contacted every deaf association to find an actress and as soon as little Maisie walked into the room we knew it had to be her. She is so confident in her deafness.”
The actress, who also appeared in US drama series Switched At Birth, the first to feature regular deaf and hard-of-hearing characters, is now hoping to turn her short into a full-length feature. Ms Shenton said: “I’m working on the script now. People want see what happens next. I’m sure we’ll all go to the Oscars if we get the nomination.” “British TV needs a series like Switched At Birth too. Maybe I’ll have to write it.”
Maisie attended a surprise screening of The Silent Child for her classmates and teachers at her primary school.
Might Maisie pursue a career in acting? Gilson said: “Maisie changes her mind with this, sometimes she would like to do more and show people, Deaf people can do anything.” “I love it when we tell her about the message of the film, and she simply says of course I can do anything.”
Source – i news