Graduate Researcher – MFA Thesis Project
Directed by Breanne Butters
Backgrounds by Sara Caudill
Sound Design by Neil Tuli
Isle of Sign is a film about a community that lived on Martha’s Vineyard from 1600s to early 1900s. During this time, hereditary deafness was so prevalent that the entire community adapted and learned sign language. Because of this, deaf and hearing individuals there had no issue communicating and deafness was not considered a disability.
The film draws on true stories from this time period collected by Nora Ellen Groce in her book Everyone Here Speaks Sign Languageas well as taking inspiration from many of Thomas Hart Benton’s paintings. Benton spent 50 summers on Martha’s Vineyard, painting the landscapes and people there. The film is told in the form of vignettes—3 mini stories featuring separate characters, locations and times to give the viewer a glimpse of what life might have been like on the “Isle of Sign.” Benton’s paintings inspired Breanne to use them as a lens to look back into time.