Beaming with pride, 30-year-old British actress Rachel Shenton received an Oscar for “The Silent Child,” a film she wrote about a 6-year-old deaf girl.
Fulfilling a promise to the child star of the film, Shenton spoke and signed her beautiful acceptance speech. But sadly, the incredible speech was largely overshadowed.
In America, Shenton is best known for her work on the television drama Switched at Birth. In the UK, Shenton has worked on numerous films and television dramas, including in the teen TV series Hollyoaks.
Shenton is also a rising advocate for children who are deaf. After her own life was turned upside down when her father unexpectedly went deaf, Shenton felt compelled to stand up for deaf children worldwide by telling a story centered around a 6-year-old deaf girl.
“The Silent Child,” introducing 6-year-old actress Maisie Sly, was a low-budget, crowdfunded film. Shenton hoped that an Oscar win would squarely place her cause in front of a massive audience, yet hardly anyone in the media is talking about the film’s big win.
So as Sunday’s go last night was pretty up there! …. Thank you SO much for all your lovely messages and support – it’s overwhelming (sorry I’ve not replied to everyone yet) We still can’t believe it…WE WON A BLOODY OSCAR! pic.twitter.com/qR3CJnZR9Z
— Rachel Shenton (@RachelShenton) March 6, 2018
“It would be really good for this subject to be more high-profile and in front of a mainstream audience, which I believe it should be,” Shenton expressed before her big Oscar win.
“The Silent Child” is the first film Shenton has written, a story that felt natural to write based on her own experience.
Shenton, 11 years old at the time, remembers when her late father, Geoff, became deaf. “I witnessed my superhero dad for the first time seem vulnerable and I noticed how easy it was for people to leave him out, not intentionally but in a group conversation made up of speaking and listening,” Shenton explained.
The exact cause of Geoff’s sudden hearing loss remained unexplained, though his family has a theory.
“One explanation was that it was a side-effect of successful chemotherapy treatment he’d had for throat cancer, but that was years earlier,” Shenton said.
Learning sign language helped Shenton cope with the whirlwind of changes that came with her father’s deafness. Even though her father tried to go about life as usual, his days were starkly different than his hearing-world life.
“Dad tried to put on a brave face for us and pretend everything was fine but it meant a huge adjustment for the family,” Shenton recalled. “There are so many everyday things that you take for granted, such as answering the telephone or chatting round the meal table.”
Shenton’s father, who passed in 2001, would no doubt be incredibly proud of his daughter.
Standing on stage alongside her fiance and film director Chris Overton, a passionate Shenton spoke of the millions of children worldwide who live in silence and face communication barriers because they are deaf.
Shenton hopes her film will leave people feeling more informed about the world of a deaf child. “People don’t know about this subject so ultimately I wanted people to leave the cinema feeling more educated and to spark a conversation,” Shenton explained.
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