Notes on CODA (Sian Heder)

Prose written by Saad El-Asha on Thursday 19, August 2021

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In the Indian Subcontinent, natives use the “head bobble” to communicate non-verbally. Words can be superfluous for those who can use them. The Indo-Pakistani Sign Language could’ve happened with heads only. It would’ve been an additional tourist attraction. The problem is with execution: crowded streets would’ve looked like the largest whac-a-mole for a Queen Victoria, and other imperialists. Now, continuously translating people’s words can be exhausting. You do it at the risk of losing your own voice. However, one thing does not exclude the other. This is what Ruby Rossi deals with in CODA, finding one’s voice in the midst of conveying different, but essential, voices: her family’s. Even when trying to express her inner voice, she does it in sign language. The film is especially sharp when it shows things, rather than letting the characters speak of them. It’s half formulaic. The other half is detailed and fresh: in the montage that shows changes and expressions in the film’s own sign language. I hasten to add that a few takes on teenage romance were due: the post-metoo awareness that texting a woman every five minutes until she agrees to go out is “psychotic” (An instance deemed “romantic” in the good ole days). One’s voice is not always pure and certain. I write in English and make shitty student films in black and white. This I do to express the dreamlike, as opposed to “dreamy”, state in which I present my case. They are impressions, not statements.

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    Quite good. I particularly enjoyed the reference to body motion while speaking. When I was a boy, people used to ask the question, "How do you get an Italian to stop speaking?" The proper answer, of course, was "Tie their hands."