When the post-apocalyptic drama Finality of Dusk has its world premiere Friday at the Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles, it’s a good bet co-writer and Deaf filmmaker Katarina Ziervogel will be seated near to the back of the theater.
That’s because Ziervogel and sound design supervisor Daniel Pellerin shaped the sonic landscape for the indie Canadian film with increased bass and rumble to allow Finality of Dusk to not only bridge the hearing world and the Deaf world but also to allow deaf moviegoers to feel the film vibrating through their body in their seats.
“In the sound design, the bass has been increased to amplify vibrations which can be felt more intensely if you aim to sit in the middle to the back rows inside a movie theater,” Ziervogel, who co-wrote the film with director Madison Thomas, tells The Hollywood Reporter.
She and Pellerin were looking for more than mood or atmosphere to tell a dystopian story set in 2045 where, amid global environmental devastation, Ishkode, a strong-willed Ojibwe woman played by Marika Sila (The Twilight Zone), teams up with Niife, a Nigerian climate refugee (Cherrel Holder), to save themselves by protecting one another.
“Our sound team taught me that bass is a low sound frequency that creates vibration. Due to the design of movie auditoriums, the sound travels upwards across the seats and grows stronger over the upward curve,” Ziervogel adds, as she recommends Deaf people like herself should sit in the middle to back rows of cinema auditoriums for the best surround sound effects.
The result is Deaf movie lovers will be able to live and breathe the soundscape for Finality of Dusk thanks to vibrations in their body brought on by the bass thumping, while they engage with the visuals on screen.
“I hope that with increased bass added, it will immerse the deaf audience into certain parts of the story,” she says, as her film goes beyond subtitles, sign language interpreters or even technology that has seats vibrating in theaters to allow Deaf movie lovers to better experience Finality of Dusk, which was produced by Kyle Irving, Lisa Meeches, Darcy Waite and Rebecca Gibson for Canadian Indigenous film producer Eagle Vision.
Ziervogel praises movies like A Quiet Place and CODA for showing fully-formed Deaf characters alongside hearing characters and boosting representation in film. “That really inspires me, as a Deaf writer and actor, to know we are creating and making space for Deaf people in film and television,” she says.
Significantly, the storyline for Finality of Dusk does not hinge on characters being Deaf, but instead making decisions to ensure their survival, not least by having to wear air filtration masks amid climate destruction.
That has the trailer for Finality of Dusk largely being without dialogue as Ishkode and Niife are pursued by Odin, a Deaf man played by Chris Dodd, who wants their masks for his own survival as the last man standing.
“I grew up not seeing myself reflected as a Deaf Indigenous person on screen, so to bring Deaf characters to life who aren’t one-dimensional and have the support to do that is incredible. And I hope it inspires other Deaf writers and actors to push ahead in this industry,” Ziervogel adds.
Finality of Dusk will help launch this year’s Red Nation Film Festival with a screening Friday night at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.