Award-winning performance artist and filmmaker Vilma Jackson has written, produced and stars in a powerful short film which she hopes will influence change. The Cycle is a psychological drama-thriller combining real-life experiences and fiction, revealing the plight of a Black, Deaf woman who is let down by authorities and struggles to find help as she tries to escape abuse and rebuild her life.
Entertainment Now catches up with Vilma for a chat ahead of the Theatre Deli, London screening of the Cycle on 25th November.
Statistics from the Crime Survey of England and Wales in 2019 revealed that disabled women, including Deaf women, were more than twice as likely to have experienced domestic abuse compared to non-disabled women ‘ – These are shocking crime statistics that many people may not be aware of – The Cycle aims to shine a light on this. Can you tell us a bit more about the Cycle and its message/aims?
One of the primary motivations behind creating this short psychological thriller drama is knowing that many people are unaware of this issue. There are three key reasons behind this decision. Firstly, the Deaf community is relatively smaller than the hearing world, making it easier for issues like domestic violence to remain hidden.
Secondly, it’s crucial to recognise that simply spreading awareness isn’t enough. Many vulnerable victims in our community struggle to speak up due to a lack of confidence or a desire to maintain their privacy. Given the close-knit nature of the Deaf community, individuals may fear being identified Lastly, outside of the Deaf community, these issues often go overlooked or dismissed.
‘The Cycle’ aims to bridge this gap by shedding light on these critical matters. My hope is that this film will serve as a vehicle to spread awareness worldwide. By watching the film, we aim to stimulate thought and discussion among the audience. These are harsh realities that persist, particularly within minority communities. My aspiration is to bring these hidden challenges to light, foster understanding, and encourage dialogue that leads to change.
‘The Cycle’ is an endeavour to ensure that no voice, especially those of marginalised individuals, goes unheard.
It’s also mentioned that the police can misunderstand a stressed deaf person’s sign language as aggressive gestures. Has there ever been moments where you or people you know have had to contend with being misunderstood like this?
It’s a critical issue that the film ‘The Cycle’ addresses. The unfortunate reality is that instances of misunderstandings between Deaf individuals and law enforcement or security personnel are far too common. Through social media and various platforms, I’ve witnessed countless Deaf individuals sharing their experiences with this very problem. It’s an issue that transcends boundaries and affects Deaf communities everywhere.
When the police encounter a deaf individual whose body language and facial expressions show increasing frustration and distress, they sometimes resort to handcuffing them. However, this raises a fundamental question: How can effective communication occur when someone’s hands are restrained? Even when deaf individuals attempt to use their voice, it’s often met with a lack of understanding on the part of the authorities. This challenge isn’t limited to law enforcement alone, it extends to various situations. For instance, in a nightclub, a deaf person might approach by hearing someone inappropriately through touch. When they try to inform and communicate with a bodyguard to address the situation, frustration can escalate rapidly. The deaf individual may use sign language to convey their intentions, but from the security’s perspective, this might appear as aggression.
The deaf person desperately seeks a means of communication, but security may lack patience and refuse to write notes or use a mobile device for communication. Sadly, these misunderstandings sometimes lead to the deaf person being ejected from the nightclub, while the hearing person remains. The reason behind this often comes down to the hearing person’s ability to use their voice, whereas the deaf person lacks that option. The Cycle aims to shed light on these challenges and promote a better understanding of the communication barriers faced by the Deaf community.
I hope to foster dialogue and awareness so that situations like these can be addressed and improved upon for the benefit of all individuals. The existing police system needs improvement in terms of Deaf awareness and accessibility. Bringing in British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters during interactions with Deaf individuals can help ensure that both sides are heard and understood, contributing to a fairer and more just process.
The Cycle premiered recently in London – what has feedback been like from the film so far?
The feedback from ‘The Cycle’ premiere in London has been incredibly positive and promising. The event was a resounding success, and the response from the audience has been nothing short of amazing. The viewers have expressed their appreciation for the film and the panel discussion that followed. During the panel discussion, the audience was highly engaged, showing a keen interest in the subject matter, and raising numerous insightful questions. It was truly gratifying to witness their enthusiasm and active participation in the event.
I must say that I am profoundly grateful to have received funds from the Urgent Action Fund via The Film Collaborative, as well as from the Elrem Foundation and Amsaan. Not to mention the unwavering support from my parents for this project. I even had to contribute my own money to ensure its success. I am forever grateful for their contributions. The talented team and cast were exceptional in their dedication to this project and in their belief in me. Most of them volunteered their time and support for this project, and without them, it might not have come to fruition.
My production team were genuine professionals who understood the importance of this project. Although I had a tight budget, but we managed to make it work by filming for one and a half days. I am forever grateful for their contributions.
Overall, the premiere was a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. It’s encouraging to see the film making an impact and genera>ng meaningful conversations. I am thrilled by the reception it has received so far and look forward to sharing it with even more audiences in the future.
You have also appeared in Coronation Street – what was it like appearing on such a legendary British soap opera?
I must express how honoured and thrilled I was to have the opportunity to be part of Coronation Street. The experience was truly remarkable. I had the pleasure of working alongside a talented cast and a wonderful director, which made the entire journey unforgettable.