CODA’s Oscar Win Puts Deaf Culture in the Spotlight, Says Canadian Child of Deaf Adults and ASL Tutor to CODA Star


When Jessica Brockway saw CODA, it made him cry. It was the first time she had seen her life – something she thought was uniquely hers – portrayed in the media.

CODAwhich means child of deaf adults, won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday.

“This is the first time we’ve had a CODA culture on screen,” said Brockway of London, Ont. “All of us CODAs ended up calling out, ‘Have you seen that movie?’ Because it made me cry.'”

CODA follows teenage singer Ruby Rossi (played by Emilia Jones), the only hearing person in a close-knit family of four, as she develops a passion for music and plans to go to college to study it . The Jones family is played by deaf actors Marlee Matlin, former Oscar winner Troy Kotsur, who ended up winning the Best Actor Oscar, and Daniel Durant.

There’s also a Canadian connection to the film: Anselmo DeSousa, from Toronto, an American Sign Language (ASL) tutor who worked with Jones to prepare her for her role.

Brockway, 29, learned sign language before English. It may be a Baby Einstein trend now, she says, but in her family, American Sign Language (ASL) was their first language.

WATCH | Jessica Brockway from London, Ont., on growing up with two deaf parents

Note: This video is captioned with simultaneous interpretation in ASL by Billie-Anne Lecky.

Londoner talks about being a CODA

Jessica Brockway is a Child of Deaf Adults or CODA. She shared her experience as CODA during a discussion of the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, starring Billie-Ann Lecky in ASL. 0:40

“I kind of grew up with one foot in deaf culture and one foot in hearing culture,” Brockway told CBC. London morning.

“Society, whether it’s right or not, pities deaf people, in general. And growing up, I felt sorry,” she said. “[CODA] never talking about it, never complaining about it – because of course, when it comes to our parents, they have “worse”. They have to access the world in a much more difficult way. They are much more misunderstood.

“We are here, a bit like this tool that is used. We are never asked what we think of the situation.”

Jessica Brockway wears her mom’s shoes while signing “I love you” to her parents and signing with her dad, Ken. Jessica says her first language was sign language. (Submitted by: Jessica Brockway)

Brockway does not resent his role. She said growing up in a CODA isn’t all that different from the experiences she’s heard from the children of first-generation Canadians. In both cases, children often end up being a vital link between their parents and the rest of the world; translating everything from interactions at the grocery store to medical appointments.

The attraction between duty to one’s family and pursuing one’s own passions is a central plot point in CODAas Ruby is torn between being a performer between her family and the people of her small fishing village, and her dream of going to school for music.

CODA professions: performer or teacher

Brockway said CODA often finds themselves in one of two professions: performing or teaching ASL; that’s where she landed — at the Robarts School for the Deaf in London, Ontario.

“I remember when I was younger, I wanted to be a singer or a dancer, and I immediately rejected it. My parents would have been absolutely supportive, but I just rejected it because it was something my parents could not have participated.

WATCH | Anselmo DeSousa talks about the significance of CODA’s Oscar win:

Note: This video is captioned with simultaneous ASL interpretation by Laura Henry:

ASL coach Anselmo DeSousa on CODA winning an Oscar

Anselmo DeSousa, ASL coach of Emilia Jones, talks about what the Oscar win for CODA means for the deaf community. ASL interpretation is provided by Laura Henry of CHS Learning Exchange. 0:54

Having a film that deals with the realities of being a CODA while sharing the joy of Deaf culture is exciting, Brockway said.

“Showing Deaf people that they’re just Deaf, and that they’re proud, and that they’re part of their culture and their environment, that’s really – in my mind – what has always been normal for me. So it’s exciting to see that on the big screen.

DeSousa, who worked with Jones for four months, said the actor was shooting locke and key in Toronto when CODA the producers went to find an ASL tutor based in the city.

Influx of interest in ASL

“I’ve worked with many actors, from young to old, and I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years. I’ve never seen anyone who was really into it. [like Jones]”, DeSousa said through interpreter Laura Henry, referring to Jones’ thirst for learning sign language.

At the time, he said, Jones was just 17, but his dedication showed maturity beyond his years.

Anselmo DeSousa, a Toronto-based ASL tutor, taught sign language to actress Emilia Jones to prepare her for her role as Ruby Rossi in the Oscar-winning film CODA. (Anselmo.desousaofficial/Instagram)

“Her level of motivation! During the week, she was shooting with locke and key. How not to be exhausted? You’re on set 14 hours a day and she looked forward to meeting me every week,” DeSousa said.

Troy Kotsur, who plays Jones’ father, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the film also won Best Adapted Screenplay.

DeSousa said it was hard to believe Jones wasn’t nominated, but noted that she was nominated for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award and won the Breakthrough Performer award. at the Gotham Independent Film Awards.

But the big win, say DeSousa and Brockway, is that Deaf culture finally has a place in the spotlight.

“Hearing people are watching this and want to learn sign language — we have an influx of people who want to learn sign language,” DeSousa said.

“They want to communicate with deaf people. And that’s another impact of this film: it’s going to build even bigger bridges as people learn to communicate and come together across the worlds of hearing, deaf, disabled and CODA.”

LOOK | Complete interviews with closed captioning and simultaneous interpretation in ASL:

London CODA talks about the importance of winning the Oscars

Jessica Brockway is a child of deaf adults, also known as CODA. She also teaches at Robart’s School for the Deaf in London, Ontario. Jessica joined CBC’s Jackie Sharkey to talk about the importance of the Oscar-winning film CODA, along with ASL performer Billie-Ann Lecky. 8:53

ASL coach talks about working on CODA

Emilia Jones’ ASL coach Anselmo DeSousa talks about his experience working with the CODA star and why the deaf community is so excited to see their culture in the spotlight. ASL interpretation is provided by Laura Henry of CHS Learning Exchange. 20:28