Stairway to Heaven

Plus: Round Two at Cabell and Now Hear This

Caplan--who studied experimental filmmaking at the University of Colorado, under famed director Stan Brakhage, and just completed her master's degree at Southern Methodist University--was long ago fully "mainstreamed," thanks to Doreen Pollack, who pioneered the use of hearing aids in 1-year-olds. Listen, which has screened at several film fests and makes its Dallas debut May 17 at a special screening on the SMU campus, is as much an educational doc about Pollack's work in the "auditory-verbal" field as it is a moving film about Caplan's parents, who she always believed divorced because of their baby girl's diagnosis.

"I had some very simple questions I had never thought to ask my parents," says Caplan, speaking from her cell phone. "Why don't I have any deaf friends? Why don't I know sign language? I had never asked, 'Do you think my hearing loss caused the divorce?' They were basic things you'd think someone would know, but since I was entirely mainstreamed, they're not questions I thought of. It never occurred to me to question the historical or emotional background of how I got here."

The movie's part autobiography and part history of Pollack's work, including archival footage of Pollack working with Caplan when she was a little girl; also seen are clips from a 1972 panel featuring some of Pollack's first students, who will be the subject of Caplan's next film. For the moment, though, it will wait: Caplan leaves Dallas in July for the American Film Institute, where she will study cinematography.

"I want people to understand how the hearing-impaired were raised without learning sign language, and how the deaf think the world's against them and they build these walls, and how the hearing are so high and mighty they don't have to worry about these things," Caplan says. "After all, here's someone with a hearing loss, but her parents worked hard, and she did, too. It's not the end of the world." --Robert Wilonsky

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