It’s weird being an immigrant. You come into a country where no one speaks your language or understands your references and can barely gauge whether or not you’re funny, smart or worth knowing.
But you can learn a language. By pushing all your senses to the maximum and giving it a lot of effort, you can eventually break through.
Some people, though, enter the world without that option. They’ll learn a language few others know, and will have to get on in cultures that never bother to try communicating with them.
Anyway, here’s a cool music video. Created by French-American electro band Haute in collaboration with English dancer Billy Read, “Unsilenced” is a visually stunning instrumental piece where a man dances through a monochromatic city in which no one has a face.
Actually, the song isn’t an instrumental at all. Visit the Unsilenced website to break Read’s silence—and catch the words hidden between his hands by holding down your cursor.
Created by BETC Paris for French nonprofit La Parole aux Sourds (“A Microphone for the Deaf”), “Unsilenced” expresses sign language with dramatic beauty. It also underscores the sense of isolation the deaf may feel in societies where, because their way of communicating is visual instead of auditory, people often avoid trying to engage them at all.
The video was filmed in the Olympiades neighborhood in Paris. It was directed by Insurrection Films’ Alban Coret, who’s created music videos for the likes of Drake and Alt-J.
Read both wrote and interpreted the lyrics, which include lines like, “I spoke; you couldn’t hear me. I moved; you couldn’t see me. The stories on my fingertips… too loud for these lips.”
“The hardest part of performing ‘Unsilenced’ was that my hands were singing while my feet were listening for the beat,” Read says in a release.
Check out the making-of, which explains the goals of “Unsilenced” and talks about how sign language can be used to express things other languages can’t.
One of the aspects that strengthen this project is that it doesn’t portray the deaf community as victims we should pity. It focuses instead on a universe of silent communication we aren’t even aware exists around us. And while learning it obviously serves those who don’t communicate the way we do, it can also add nuance to our own lives—teaching us to express ourselves in ways that reconnect us to our bodies.
To support the organization’s work, and help bridge the divide between the deaf and the hearing, users are invited to make a donation on the website. You can also brush up on your American Sign Language, which some of us learned in elementary school, then promptly forgot.
To motivate you, we leave you with this epic sign language rap battle featuring Wiz Khalifa.