In this blog post, Ocean talks about Starhawk’s novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, how it incorporates American Sign Language as part of the concept of access and inclusion for all, and the current efforts underway to bring the novel to the screen.
This post also contains a video which is captioned for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This video discusses the novel’s concept and provides some insight into the movie story line, and can be found at the end of this post – it is recommended that you read the post first to get the background info before viewing the video.
About a year ago, I introduced Crossroads readers to The Fifth Sacred Thing, a post-apocalyptic novel written by well-known Pagan leader, teacher and author Starhawk.
Anyone who knows me well knows I am a big fan of Starhawk – her books, her teachings, her outlook on life. I’ve had the pleasure of attending her workshops, participating in rituals with her, and even teaching her how to cuss in sign language:
I’ve also had the pleasure of helping her to gain a better understanding into the importance of Equal Communication Access. By working together, I’ve helped Starhawk in making the Spiral Dance ritual accessible for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and also in assuring that videos are either captioned or transcribed so they can be enjoyed by all.
In the book The Fifth Sacred Thing, the main characters – although hearing – do know and utilize American Sign Language, as part of the overall philosophy of inclusion practiced by the ecotopian society of the Bay Area (a skill which is sometimes viewed with nervousness by outsiders from other areas):
“My name is Madrone,” she began. By habit, she was starting to sign her words as she spoke them, as she would in a Council meeting. But the ripple of discomfort that passed over the women’s faces reminded her that they were not accustomed to the signs, so she placed her hands in her lap.
~ The Fifth Sacred Thing, page 271
The San Francisco of The Fifth Sacred Thing, in the year 2048, is a richly diverse community where many races and ethnicities coexist in harmony. Differences of color, gender, age, sexual orientation or physical ability are not allowed to restrict a person’s opportunities. The ancestors of many cultures are honored in ceremony, art, and education. Every child in the city grows up speaking at least three languages: English, a neighborhood or ancestral tongue , and American Sign Language. Lessons and Council Meetings are always signed as well as spoken, so the Deaf are easily integrated into public life.
That American Sign Language would be incorporated as one of the three languages taught and used in such a community should hardly come as a surprise, since the Bay Area is home to a large and active Deaf Community. That Starhawk incorporates this fact into her novel demonstrates recognition of a goal which the Deaf Community has long advocated for – access and inclusion. While maintaining a fierce pride in their own unique culture and identity, Deaf people do desire integration into all aspects of public life.
Plans are currently underway to bring The Fifth Sacred Thing to the silver screen. Last year’s Kickstarter fundraising campaign netted over $76,000 in initial funds, and demonstrated community support for such a project. In the nine months since, the movie project team has been hard at work getting their legal and financial structures set up; creating art, character sketches and illustrations; writing and recording musical themes; developing a preliminary line-item budget; and getting an investor packet written, illustrated, designed and distributed to likely prospects. In addition, Starhawk herself has been busy revising the screenplay, writing the first script, and drafting a sequel.
The team recently released a new video – “One Act of Courage.” Produced as a teaser for The Fifth Sacred Thing film project, the video is designed as a quick and effective way to present the story ideas and themes of the film to those who have not yet read the novel. Narrated by Academy Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis, who has signed on to play Maya Greenwood in the film (one of the main characters), in keeping with the spirit of access and inclusion this video is captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Special thanks to Starhawk, Mouse, and everyone associated with The Fifth Sacred Thing Film Project!