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“Preservation of the Sign Language” (1913) and “Sound of Metal” (2019)

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George Veditz from the film “Preservation of the Sign Language” (1913)

The 93rd Academy Awards are coming up on April 25 and one of the most nominated films is “Sound of Metal,” about a heavy metal drummer whose life is turned upside down when he learns that he is going deaf. The film is nominated in six categories, among them Best Picture, Best Actor (Riz Ahmed), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), and Best Sound. We have Best Sound in our Oscar pool.

We naturally tend to make connections back to films in our collection, especially those on the National Film Registry, so our thoughts turned to “Preservation of the Sign Language” from 1913 (watch it here). The film was made by Deaf advocate and educator George Veditz to demonstrate in sign language the importance of defending the right of Deaf people to sign as opposed to verbalizing their communication.

Veditz uses American Sign Language (ASL), a distinct organized language using movement and motion with hands, facial expressions, and body movement. The most common misconception is that ASL is a signed version of English, but in fact it is an original language with its own rules for word formation and word order. ASL is used extensively throughout “Sound of Metal.”

In 2010, “Preservation of the Sign Language” was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry for its cultural, historic and aesthetic importance. We recommend you read Christopher Shea’s essay for more information.

Veditz would no doubt be thrilled to see his mission to end the stigmas associated with sign language continue to make great progress. In 1988, the state of California deemed American Sign Language as an approved course satisfying a foreign language credit in high school and college, and to date 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation.

Each year, the Librarian of Congress selects 25 films for induction into the National Film Registry. We invite you to nominate up to 50 films that you deem “culturally, historically or aesthetically” important. For more information and to nominate your favorite films visit our website.


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