This underwater film is a visual manifesto on reclaiming the narrative concerning what society considers a disability. Activist, artist, and actor Chella Man first envisioned this film as a child and has developed alongside him.

“Shooting this piece required both the cast and production’s full hearts as we waded into our vulnerabilities,” says Chella Man, who collaborated with fellow deaf artist Rayly Aquino and Raven Sutton, whose social work concerns advocating for domestic and sexual violence survivors. “This ease was translated into the final film. we carried that rawness with us. I am forever grateful and proud of the healing and connections that were created this day.”

American Sign Language (ASL) is shown as more than a means of communication in The Beauty of Being Deaf but as physical poetry. In the same way cadence, tone, and sibilance can mark out an outstanding orator, so can the gestural fluidity, facial expressions, and movements of a signer show their artistry.

“As an artist and human being, I have always desired complete control over my body and the ways I present it,” says Chella Man. “This created conflict after receiving my first hearing aids at four years old.”

In collaboration with Private Policy, an inclusive fashion brand in New York City, Chella Man designed flexible ear jewelry that works easily with anyone wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant. “The appearance of hearing aids and cochlear implants have always created a disconnect,” says Chella Man, who wears the Private Policy designs in this film. “The pieces never felt like me, and I had no control over their designs. I always found myself brainstorming ways to reclaim the machinery that had become my part of me.”