'Hearing Times' article, 2009.

The founder of 'Your Local Cinema .com' has recently been voted winner of the Daily Mail 'Enterprising Young Brits: People’s Choice Award', at a ceremony honouring the outstanding contributions of young people.

One for all and all for one at your local cinema - The joy of subtitles

‘YOU have a new email’ box comes up at the bottom corner of my screen. Ah of course, it’s Thursday today! It’s that weekly notification from subtitles@yourlocalcinema.com website. I emit out a feeble “yay”. I have to confess, it’s one of the things I most look forward to on a Thursday. Why? This notification serves a provider of informing us, deaf/hard of hearing people the upcoming subtitled films in our local town via an e-newsletter. So long gone are the days of having to suffer by waiting for the DVD to come out and hitting HMV first thing in the morning.

Though this website is funded by the UK film industry, never did I know this subtitled film information service was set up by a seventeen years old deaf lad, Dean Rhodes-Brandon until he recently won the Make Your Mark Enterprising Young Brits People’s Choice Award (2009).

This information service was actually set up in 2000 when he was eight years old (with some help from his parents). It is extremely generous of him to sacrifice his own time and effort to help around 5 million people including myself in the UK to ensure we have equal access to cinema. Not only does this website provide the date, time and location of around 500 subtitled films, in over 300 cinemas, it also provides thousands of audio described shows for the visually impaired audience. This website also includes subtitled and audio described trailers and clips.

We wouldn’t have the chance to go out with our family or friends as hearing people would do. Not to mention the opportunity of munching a large tub of popcorn and throwing one or two at the people ahead of us (not that I do it). Whether it’s at Odeon, Cineworld or Star City Vue cinemas, the information is mostly and I repeat: MOSTLY, accurate.

There have been a few times when I turned up to a cinema, all geared up, to find out from the staff behind the counter there were no subtitled films going on that day. Charming.

My friends have often complained that in their local town, the subtitled films are shown on less popular days like Thursday and Sunday, when they would prefer to go on a Friday or Saturday.

I am sure that some of you have encountered technical problems with the captions whilst watching a film. It’s either blurred, too tiny, half missing and there’s been an occasion when the captioning was lop-sided so I had to watch the film with my head lop-sided too. I will never forget that feeling of disappointment when I attended the screening of Harry Potter. The captions failed to work, and I went to complain to the staff. Five minutes later, I was leaving the cinema with my refund and a free cinema ticket for my next visit. That was a large tub of popcorn wasted.

But besides all these issues, it has been successful most of time. Surely this role must be a huge pressure in Dean’s life, but when he viewed his first subtitled film Chicken Run, it “changed his life” he said. Dean is currently working with organizations that focus on disability, companies that specialise in technology as well as working with cinemas all over the U.K, Wales, Ireland and even the Isle of Wight for future improvements (let’s hope the problems I described are considered).

“Before our website/information service came along, there was no English-language subtitled cinema... the only way deaf people could enjoy cinema was to watch a foreign language film. Ridiculous,” says Dean.

That reminds me of an unfortunate incident when I once enquired about a foreign film ‘Mongol’ and wanted to ensure it had subtitles. The staff told me there were none and I argued that I was told there was a subtitled version on that day. Then of course I realised that it was already subtitled. You can imagine my embarrassment.

Dean has mentioned that in his role as head of yourlocalcinema.com, “receiving feedback from other people with hearing problems or sight problems is the best thing of all.”

Right, when’s the next subtitled film?

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