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Sundance Film Festival Review: ‘The Tuba Thieves’ is a Transcendent Auditory Look at Deafness 

Nyke Prince appears in The Tuba Thieves by Alison O’Daniel, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by Derek Howard. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by the press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

In a period of time from 2011 to 2013, numerous tubas were stolen from schools around the Los Angeles area. This film does not closely follow those thefts, and we never catch glimpse of the thieves.

Instead, The Tuba Thieves takes audiences on a journey the both the absence and presence of sound, presenting a new way to look at the world around us. The film’s captions are brief yet majorly descriptive, attributing details to sounds one wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Even what one would consider “silence” has a description, which once explored, can be heard.

Director Alison O’Daniel sets the stories of a handful of deaf individuals against these robberies, showing how even when our instruments of sound are taken away, there is a new way to hear the world around us. Sundance audiences were given balloons to inflate and hold to enhance the listening experience and catch a lot of low tones that might otherwise be lost to the hearing ear. Audiences are taken through a new hearing experience that shows, even when the world may seem distant and quiet, there is still a world to hear that we may not have considered before.

SCORE: ★★★1/2


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Written by Miles Foster

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