The Tuba Thieves (2023)

Directed by Alison O'Daniel

A spate of robberies in Southern California schools had an oddly specific target: tubas. In this work of creative nonfiction, d/Deaf first-time feature director Alison O’Daniel presents the impact of these crimes from an unexpected angle. The film unfolds mimicking a game of telephone, where sound’s feeble transmissibility is proven as the story bends and weaves to human interpretation and miscommunication. The result is a stunning contribution to cinematic language. O’Daniel has developed a syntax of deafness that offers a complex, overlaid, surprising new texture, which offers a dimensional experience of deafness and reorients the audience auditorily in an unfamiliar and exhilarating way.

Seattle International Film Festival 2023: Film #32

It's less that The Tuba Thieves creates a new language of cinema, but rather that it enlarges its grammar; not exactly indescribable, yet difficult to convey in words what it's actually about. Playful and engaging, even the subtitles seemed to be enjoying themselves throughout this piece of 'creative non-fiction', and its many surface-level allusions (such as the animalistic nature of the Californian wildfires or the lack of a clear radio signal within the L.A. road tunnels being something like being deaf) don't feel overdone. My first piece of d/Deaf cinema, too: a beguiling introduction, and one of the most creative pieces of cinema I've seen in a while.