Variety published a story yesterday detailing a walkout by the jury at the Sundance film festival from a film where closed captioning wasn’t available. They’ve been striving for greater accessability anyway, but in this instance it was a specific problem for the jury, which includes wonderful actress Marlee Matlin. The article suggests it was a dramatic walkout after a captioning device didn’t work, whilst the statement from the Sundance organisers was more muted, that the jury just decided to watch the film at a later date so they could do so together. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
I do think this is a good thing for continuing to raise awareness around captioning as an accessability tool. It’s not just useful for the deaf and hearing impaired, but helps with languages, attention spans, and sometimes just comfort. The post mentions that the film industry still is a bit hesitant to get involved in this side of things.
However, multiple sources state that several filmmakers have declined the request to provide open captions onscreen, citing the costs and time associated with making another print. Sources say that some buyers even suggested that including captions onscreen could somehow hurt the film’s asking prices on the market as they try to land distribution.
Sundance went with the standard line that they are always working on improving and there’s always more to be done. But at least this headline, even if it is more dramatic than the actual event may have been, raises awareness and might get the right people talking.