CODA on Apple TV +: “I hope this film will make the public aware that we are part of society like you” – Actus Ciné

Available on Apple TV + since August 13, CODA is an American remake of The Aries Family with, among others, Emilia Jones and Marlee Matlin. AlloCiné was able to speak with the film crew.

Rewarded by the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Prize at the last Sundance Festival, CODA caused a sensation when it was presented in the United States as La Famille Bélier in its time in France. This touching story of a young girl who fell in love with singing when she came from a family where all the other members were deaf has universal significance.

CODA, a film written and directed by Siân Heder with Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant…

AlloCiné: Have you seen La Famille Bélier, the French film behind this remake, and how different is your film from the original?

Siân Heder : I cried when I saw The Aries Family and I immediately thought that it would make a perfect remake for an American film. I grew up on the East Coast, near Boston, and every summer I spent a lot of time in a small fishing village. Like in the movie. So I was familiar with the atmosphere that reigns in this kind of community and with the fact that life can be very rough at times.

I was also intrigued by the culture of “codas” which corresponds to the name given to children of the deaf and hard of hearing. It is not easy for a “normal” child to be part of this community and to be torn between the two worlds, that of those who hear and that of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. For me, it was crucial to employ actors who were genuinely hard of hearing as well as to create a whole community of sign language specialists on the set.

Marlee matlin : First of all I fell in love with the script and the role of Jackie Rossi. This role was perfect for me and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to make this film so authentic and so beautiful. My meeting Siân Heder only confirmed my commitment to this film. As an actress I didn’t want to see the original film so as not to be influenced by what the other actors had done. I really wanted to create my own Jackie Rossi. I also believe that being really deaf added a little more authenticity to our version because it seems to me that, for the French film, they did not use many hearing impaired actors.

Coda on apple tv +: "i hope this film will make the public aware that we are part of society like you" - actus ciné

Apple TV +

Emilia jones : I absolutely loved the role of Ruby from the first reading. It’s really a beautiful story that moved me a lot; I even cried. It fascinated me to learn sign language as well as to learn to fish. Before shooting, I watched the French film that I really liked, even if it is different from ours, due to the environment in which the two families operate. Both films are in any case love letters to the concept of family, they both celebrate family spirit.

Troy Kotsur : I haven’t seen the French film yet, but I nevertheless watched the trailer before shooting our film, which seems quite different and unique to me. In La Famille Bélier, they are farmers and we, the Rossi, are fishermen. I think our film is a bit more authentic with really hard of hearing actors like me.

Daniel Durant : It really made me happy to read a script with characters who are like me deaf or hard of hearing. And then how to refuse to play alongside Marlee Matlin. I haven’t seen the French film but I didn’t think I needed it to find my way with my role.

What challenges did you have to face with this film?

Siân Heder : First of all, it was a real challenge to learn sign language. As the shooting progressed, I really learned to communicate better. The proof is that we had 7 performers at the start and more than 3 at the end of the shoot. It’s really the first time we’ve taken the time to really communicate with the actors. Usually it’s racing on a set. But here, given the circumstances, I had to settle down a little more and spend more time really clearly explaining my vision for this film and these characters.

Another challenge was filming at sea with a fleet of 7 boats at all times to perfectly capture each scene. We used real fishing boats and hired their crews to act as consultants. Finally, the live recording of the music and the various choirs that you see in the film gave me a sweat.

Coda on apple tv +: "i hope this film will make the public aware that we are part of society like you" - actus ciné

Apple TV +

Marlee matlin : Actually, this film was anything but a challenge because I felt right at home on the set. Indeed, the producers had created a perfect environment for the hearing impaired with performers knowing our language wherever we were. And I had partners on screen who have the same disability. Really, I’ve never felt so good on set as I did on Coda. In the end you even had members of the technical team who had learned our sign language. Every day it was a pleasure to come and work on this film.

Emilia jones : Without a doubt, it was not easy to learn sign language. But it was so beautiful to learn with really hard of hearing actors.

Troy Kotsur : What was fun and a mini challenge was getting used to having a mic on me when I’m not speaking and hearing nothing. But the technical team explained to me that they needed to record the sounds made with my gestures and with my clothes. As the shoot went on, I got used to having this microphone on me.

Daniel Durant : Without hesitation, the biggest challenge was learning to fish! It is really a difficult job. Just learning to tie knots is a real headache!

Coda on apple tv +: "i hope this film will make the public aware that we are part of society like you" - actus ciné

Apple TV +

What are Coda’s themes and messages?

Marlee matlin : I hope that by seeing this film, the public will understand and learn that we, the deaf and hard of hearing, have our own culture and that we are very protectionist of this culture. We are proud of who we are and we have a rich history to share with others. Did you know, by the way, that American Sign Language comes from that created by the French? I am grateful for it. I hope the audience will be moved by this beautiful story which does not attempt to victimize the deaf and hard of hearing. I hope this film will make the audience aware that we are part of society like you and that we are all potential partners.

Siân Heder : It’s a film about the family, a film about the journey of a young girl who seeks and ends up finding herself. It’s a film about the concept of “growing up” and how hard it is to grow up following your own path when you come from such a close-knit but also interdependent family like the one in our film. It’s really a film, too, about “communication”, whether you are hearing impaired or not. How one should communicate clearly and with honesty, within his family.

Emilia jones : It really is, in fact, a film about communication between human beings. And, it really is a family movie. I think that in these times of pandemic, there is nothing more important than the family; this is what these difficult times have shown us. I also hope that the public will learn a little more about the deaf and hard of hearing.

Coda on apple tv +: "i hope this film will make the public aware that we are part of society like you" - actus ciné

Apple TV +

Troy Kotsur : I hope this film shows that a family made up of deaf people and people who are not is not that different than another family where everyone talks and hears. It is always about love, communication, understanding. All of this is at the heart of all families.

Daniel Durant : I agree with the rest of the team, it is above all a film about the family and not, only about the deaf and hard of hearing community. It’s a film that shows how difficult it is to keep your whole family together, to keep everyone “together” even if everyone has to follow a different path. I also hope that this film shows that we can have bigger roles in a film or in a series.

Tell us about your collaboration with director Siân Heder.

Marlee matlin : I am really grateful to Siân for having fully integrated into our community and even having learned sign language. She had the perfect sensitivity and vision to make this beautiful film. She really showed a great passion for us and for this work.

Emilia jones : She’s an amazing woman and I learned so much from her. Learning sign language together was a unique and truly moving experience. She is a passionate director and I hope we will have the opportunity to work together again.

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