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The Independent Critic

Kerrynton Jones, CJ Jones, Antoinette Abbamonte, Ryan Lane
Erika Davis-Marsh
22 Mins.

 "CODA" Screening at 2019 ReelAbilities Pittsburgh 
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Alex (Kerrynton Jones) is a promising young dance student at the risk of being released from her dance school, a pending final exam existing as her final hope of living into her promise as she struggles with surrendering herself to the emotional journey her dance calls for largely resulting from a life having been lived squarely between the hearing and deaf cultures. A CODA, or Child of Deaf Adults, Alex is ultimately conflicted about in which world she really belongs. 

CODA, screening this week at the 2019 ReelAbilities Pittsburgh Film Festival, is a USC Graduate Thesis Film from writer/director Erika Davis-Marsh and it's an engaging, meaningful portrayal of one young woman's struggle to claim her own identity after a lifetime spent existing in everyone else's. It's a simple yet compelling story brought nicely to life through both the dialogue and Alex's emotionally resonant dance moves. 

In the film, Alex seemingly struggles with her ability to hear while being so immersed in the world of her parents (CJ Jones and Antoinette Abbamonte). When she begins to fall for a deaf drummer, Josh (Ryan Lane), she meets at a local club, the inner conflict only intensifies. 

CODA does a beautiful job of peacefully co-existing between both deaf and hearing cultures, including the wise decision to ensure the film's language is understood by all. Yet, perhaps even more wisely, Davis-Marsh also quietly creates some of that tension within the film that Alex experiences herself. While we certainly don't completely identify with her, Davis-Marsh nicely takes us inside that world and makes sure that we feel that tension. 

Led by Kerrynton Jones, the film's ensemble cast is uniformly strong and, as one would expect from a ReelAbilities film, the casting is authentic and thus a sense of naturalism permeates every moment of the film. The film's final moments are heartwarming yet avoidant of anything overly schmaltzy, a heartfelt resolution seemingly earned by all involved and certainly satisfying to watch unfold. 

For more information on ReelAbilties Pittsburgh Film Festival, be sure to visit the festival's official website. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  

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    The Independent Critic is proud to support Indy-based Heartland Film by committing to the 50/50 x 2020 Pledge - By the end of the year 2020, The Independent Critic will achieve gender parity in its reviews of both shorts and feature films. Furthermore, The Independent Critic also pledges support for the Ruderman Family Foundation's call for authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and actively commits to leverage its journalistic influence to effect genuine change in the film industry by calling for and actively promoting authentic and inclusive casting and hiring of people with disabilities.

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