One of the most singular viewing (and listening) experiences of the year, the documentary The Tuba Thieves explores what it means to listen and how sound––particularly the absence of it––figures into everyday life. A fascinating counterpart to a fellow recent Sundance premiere, 32 Sounds, Alison O’Daniel’s film opens up the world of the d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing community to invite audiences to see and hear the experience. With a rather radical use of captions and subtitles, as previewed in our exclusive trailer premiere below, it’s one of the essential documentaries of the year thus far.

John Fink said in his Sundance review, “A film that rewards patience, The Tuba Thieves, despite its title, is not a quirky heist picture but rather a meditation on the presence and absence of sound framed by both recent and further-removed history. It’s directed by d/Deaf visual artist Alison O’Daniel, who crafts a rich visual and auditory project that’s probably best experienced in an acoustically perfect environment. One might at least need a high-end pair of noise-canceling headphones to simulate the optimal screening venue. Open-captioned by default, The Tuba Thieves is an immersive journey that perhaps approximates the trials of limited hearing with a structure that is either a cinematic meditation or frustrating for those seeking to impose some sense of order over the raw material we’re presented.”

“Ultimately, this film is a meditation on access and loss, and an investigation into what it means to steal, make, lose, own, protest against and legislate sound, and therefore inversely quiet and peace,” said the director. “The history of sound segregations is deeply embedded into the city through the design and mediation of sound. These choices declare an ownership over space and air, how sound travels through these substrates and who is allowed or obligated to hear it.”

See the exclusive trailer below ahead of a release on March 15 at NYC’s BAM, March 29 in Minneapolis at The Walker Art Center, and expansion.

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