Dominion of New York

Art & Entertainment

September 26, 2011

Deaf Black Filmmaker Breaks New Ground In Film

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Written by: Kelly Virella

Ann Marie “Jade” Bryan shooting her feature film, “If You Hear My Own Tune”


hane Rain — a hard-of-hearing, 18-year-old black girl growing up in New York City — has come to a crossroads in her life. After growing up in a family of mostly deaf people who prefer to keep to themselves, she wants to break ranks. Her mother wants her to go to a university for the deaf, and continue to live her life primarily among deaf people. But she wants to branch out into the world of the hearing as a student at a mainstream college. The college she selects will forever shape her life as a black woman.

Zhane Rain is a fictional character in The Double Life of Zhane Rain, a groundbreaking indie film being developed by New York City filmmaker Ann Marie “Jade” Bryan. The film will break every formula that Hollywood says makes a successful black movie. It’s not a comedy. It doesn’t star a man in drag as a fast-talking, neck-rolling, gun-toting grandma (Relax Tyler Perry fans: Bryan likes his work). And it doesn’t beat you-over-the-head with a message. All of that can only mean one thing: if Bryan can raise the money necessary to get the project off the ground, it’ll probably be good. Her goal is to start production in the fall of 2012. “It’s very challenging to introduce a film about a deaf black family to producers. That type of film isn’t happening anywhere,” she says. “I’m determined to get it done.”

With The Double Life of Zhane Rain, she is trying to raise money through Kickstarter, where she’s now running a campaign to raise $4,000 by October 10.

The 40-something-year-old Bryan lives on the Upper West Side with her partner and has produced and directed over 10 films, including shorts and her new feature film, If You Could Hear My Own Tune, a drama about a deaf black woman’s search for Mr. Right. The film was accepted into the 2011 San Francisco Black Film Festival and the 2011 Roxbury International Film Festival. Bryan is shopping for a distributor for it now.


Bryan is an athletic woman with light brown skin and straightened shoulder length wooly hair that is died dark brown, and often crowned with a baseball cap. She wears heavy black eyeliner and shadow around her eyes. There is a gap between her front teeth and she speaks with a Jamaican accent. She is an unusual combination of soft-spoken politeness and diva. She is likely to notice if she interrupts you when you talk, apologize and invite you to continue speaking, but has no qualms about extolling the excellence of her work and taste in film. “Anyone can pick up a camera these days and call themselves a filmmaker,” she says. “But I’m a film snob,” she says, lifting up the tip of her nose with her forefinger. The nickname she gave herself, “Jade,” says diva best. It’s an acronym for Jamaican-American-Destinee-Empress.

One reason so many of Bryan’s characters are deaf is that she is too. She can hear a little when wearing both her hearing aids, reads lips and speaks American Sign Language. In fact, Zhane Rain is semi-


About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Melissa Harris Perry. Photo courtesy of MSNBC.