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19m Drama 2020

Language:Mandarin with English Subtitles


Synopsis Seeking his deaf mother’s approval, a Shanghainese hard of hearing boy attempts to overcome his identity crisis through contemporary dance and sign language.

Director’s Statement Handscape is the brainchild of me and my longtime childhood friend, Anke Bai. We discovered that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community is a minority of language, but not disability. I hope to utilize this ‘silent’ language to explore sexual identity - a seemingly silent topic within the pressures of contemporary Chinese society. Casting a real Deaf and Hard of Hearing actor - with the help of the Shanghai Sign Language Center and Deaf director Sam Zhen - was a game-changer for us. It pushed us to create this unique story together with the community, and allowed me as a filmmaker to present our Deaf and Hard of Hearing talent in their full potential. I hope Handscape encourages audiences from all cultural backgrounds to think more deeply about these minority groups.

Curator’s Note Spoken almost entirely in Chinese sign language, Handscape advocates for a community that’s too rarely represented on screen. Blending the protagonist’s poetic subjectivity with well-observed realism, director Chen creates a drama of identity in flux – while never forgetting the adversity deaf and queer people face at large. But the film’s stand-out scenes are its dance sequences, where the boy’s self-expression hypnotically comes to the fore. Through a tender gaze and gentle soundscape, Chen produces a compassionate portrait of the artist as a young man.


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Bonus Content



Q&A with Yiru Chen