Amazon’s Sound of Metal tells the fascinating story of Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in a punk-metal band who suddenly loses his hearing, and with it, his identity. The film hits close to home for one of the stars, Paul Raci, who grew up with deaf parents. In an interview with CinemaBlend, Raci opened up about deaf representation and the oppression of deaf people.
Paul Raci’s character Joe leads a deaf community in Sound of Metal that becomes a large part of Ruben’s journey as he adjusts to his new life. Having first hand experience with the deaf community, Raci was the perfect choice for this role. He was able to bring an authenticity to the story that adds to the film’s overall excellence. Here’s what he told CinemaBlend when asked about Sound of Metal’s message:
We’re trying to say exactly what Joe tells him in the beginning: ‘We’re here to fix [the mind], not [the hearing], and there’s nothing wrong with you.’ When he’s fixing my roof over there, I go ‘What the f- what are you doing?’ He says ‘Oh I’m trying to fix-’ There’s nothing to fix here. So that’s really the theme. And deaf people - you know, when I was growing up in the ‘50s in Chicago with my mom and dad, they were - my perception was that they were the most oppressed people on the face of the earth. Because the hearing man had his hand in my dad’s pocket. He was always being scammed by the hearing guy. Today, ever since 1990 and beyond, deaf people have been telling me, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me. You’re the one who’s disabled because you don’t know my language.’ They’re very self-supporting. And they’re just, almost uh, aggressive about it. They want - they have to fight five times as hard as I do to get a role.
What a beautiful theme - to reframe the way a disability is approached, and redefine ‘disability’ altogether. There are so many stories out there to tell, and when tackling a subject that calls attention to a specific group of people, it’s best to have someone personally attached to said group be a part of the project. Some film treatments of disabilities have not been well received, and although backlash of some kind is to be expected with any creative project, it’s beautiful to see the amount of care that went into an accurate portrayal of the deaf community in Sound of Metal.
It’s natural for many to try to fix something they view as broken, but as Paul Raci said, there’s nothing to fix here. Sound of Metal incorporates various cinematic elements to allow the audience to experience much of what Ruben goes through right along with him. This gives viewers a chance to connect with the main character in a unique way and perhaps shift their perspective.
Sound of Metal began its limited theatrical run on November 20th and will be available streaming on Amazon Prime December 4th.