Movies like CODA to watch next for more thought-provoking stories
One of the most surprising developments this awards season is that an indie family film about a girl growing up with a deaf family in a Massachusetts fishing town did so well. For those who have seen the film, however, it’s no surprise at all. It’s an incredibly engaging and relatable story with great writing and acting. The recent Best Picture winner Coda tells the story of Ruby, the teenage daughter of deaf parents who finds herself torn between staying home to help with the family fishing business or leaving to pursue her passion: music. Not only did the film introduce us to great talents like Troy Kotsur and given great opportunities to veterans like Marlee Matlin, but it also showed us the importance of telling stories about people with disabilities. Hopefully, the success of this movie will cause others like it to become more mainstream, but until then, enjoy these 7 movies that focus on people with disabilities.
The Aries Family
Any movie list like Coda would not be complete without mentioning The Aries Family. This delicious French film served as an inspiration for Coda. Like the American remake The Aries Family follows a teenage outcast who must choose between helping her deaf family’s dairy farm and going to music school. The main differences in the movies come not from the script but from their tone. While Coda takes on a more inspiring tone filled with American soul music, The Aries Family contains much more outrageous laughs and classic French songs. But The Aries Family gives us much less understanding of our protagonist’s deaf family than Coda, it serves as an interesting companion to show how far we’ve come. You can see how from 2014 to 2021 how Western society’s perceptions of deaf people have changed.
Children of a lesser God
By now, Marlee Matlin is a household name, but she first shot to fame in 1986 when she starred in Children of a lesser God and went on to become the first deaf person to win an Oscar for acting. Based on the play of the same name, the film follows James (the late Guillaume Blessé), a new speech therapy teacher at a school for the deaf who meets and falls in love with Sarah (Matlin), a former student who has decided to stay and work as a janitor. Their relationship is strained by Sarah’s dislike of the outside auditory world and James’s inability to fully step into her world. It was one of, if not the first mainstream American film to ask why deaf people should adapt to the hearing world and never the other way around. For an insightful conversation about the politics of the deaf community as well as a beautiful love story, this is a must.
For years, Rice Ahmad was an established and respected rapper, but not as well known as an actor. Ahmed has earned well-deserved respect from the acting community for his performance in The sound of metal. In the film, Ahmed plays Ruben, a drummer who discovers he is losing his hearing at a rapid rate and decides to go to a shelter for recovering deaf drug addicts. Previously, many other films presented this story as a tragedy of someone slowly losing touch with their passion and loved ones. Not this movie. Ruben learns to find beauty in silence and finds a community and culture at the shelter he did not know before. The sound of metal shows that losing hearing is not a curse.
The only documentary on this list, screaming camp shows how the disabled heroes of the 1970s created a radical and more inclusive world in which we can all live. This Netflix documentary focuses on the establishment of a summer camp for children with disabilities in upstate New York. For the first time in their lives, these children felt normal and empowered and later many participated in the 504 Sit-In, a protest that brought about disability rights. There are movies that make you want to stand up and cheer and screaming camp is exactly that kind of movie. The inspiring documentary teaches us about the dystopian world people with disabilities have had to live in, how they scratched and clawed to create a better future, and the progress that still needs to be made.
The Peanut Butter Falcon
On one side of town, Zak, a young man with Down’s Syndrome, escapes from a state-run aged care facility in hopes of becoming a professional wrestler under the tutelage of famed Salt Water Redneck. On the other side of town, Tyler, a man fired for bringing in illegal crab fishers, decides to escape his tormentors and escape. These two very different men share a common goal and become more than an unlikely couple. They become brothers for life. The Peanut Butter Falcon and Coda are those rare films that can only lift you up. It’s an updated American classic. By following these two outlaws and misfits as they travel through the American wilderness, we gain a deep understanding of American mythology as well as Zak and Tyler’s personal motivations.
Many of you may be familiar with the watered-down American remake starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart called upside downbut rest assured, the original French film, The Untouchables is a modern classic. The film tells the story of Driss, a young man from the Parisian estates who decides to apply for the job of caretaker for an extremely wealthy paraplegic. He’s just there to get a signature on a document proving he was interviewed and rejected so he can continue to receive his social benefits, but to his surprise he gets the job anyway. Based on a true story, the two form an enduring and unlikely friendship. To like Coda, the film does not treat its handicapped characters like dramas but on the contrary finds a humor in their daily life which is not done to their detriment. With great performances from Omar Si and François Cluzetit’s a great choice for a night of viewing.
In most movies and television shows, people with disabilities have been deprived of their agency, their joy, and most importantly, their sexuality. Sessions focuses on exactly this discrepancy and delves into the sexuality of a man dependent on an iron lung. It follows Mark, a man who became disabled following a childhood bout with polio. One day, he decides to make an appointment with a sex surrogate, Cheryl (Helen Hunt), in order to lose her virginity. She teaches him the practical mechanics of sex and makes him feel comfortable in her body for the first time in a long time. Once you have finished Coda and you want to see an equally inspiring but less family-friendly film, Sessions is an excellent choice.
Musical ‘CODA’ in preparation
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