Video Review by Chris Wixtrom © 2000
A-Z Stories: Professions; 50 min. VHS; signed in ASL; no audio; 1998
Number Stories: Animals; 20 min. VHS; signed in ASL; no audio; 1998
Original Works in ASL by Andrew Byrne
E.C. Drury School for the Deaf
255 Ontario Street South
Milton, Ontario, Canada L9T 2M5
Visual genius! The eyes have it with these two new videos from Andrew Byrne, of Ontario, Canada. Acknowledging poetic elements inspired by linguist and ASL poet, Clayton Valli, Mr. Byrne creates playful, intricately woven A - Z stories. Viewers are drawn in like visual detectives hot on a trail. Each piece is introduced with a dash of poetic analysis and a splash of humor, as Byrne appears in scuba gear on a beach, in military uniform in the jungle, or tightening his belt in a dojo. Viewers lean close to the screen in an eye-race to find the letters as they transform from action, to character, to reaction. Next, a slow-motion replay helps those of unskilled eye to pick apart the seamless story scenes. Following each work is the sometimes surprising answer to the question: Truth or fiction?
In Number Stories, we are treated to clever signed artworks created and performed by deaf children, ages four to fourteen. Each brief tale portrays the personality and behavior of an animal, using handshapes for ordinal numbers between zero and ten. The children’s stories are simple, yet masterful. Slow-motion study of the precise, fluidly changing facial expressions and the complex, highly integrated finger, hand and body motions in these sequences indisputably proves that these deaf children are ASL artists. Thanks to these videotapes, we get the benefit!