" We Can Be Heroes"
Delivered by creative production agency nrg for Deaf health charity Sign Health in support of the launch of their new emergency services app 999 BSL, superhero short Deaf Thunder swoops into our Showcase with fresh (x-ray?) vision. It’s a Silver winner at the Digital Impact Awards that feels like a passion project. But what properties do comic book heroes and brand film share? And why choose that premise? First understanding the basics of style and genre hold the key.
Within the forum of the comic book style, discussions on the nature of heroism, its iconography, and the responsibilities attached to it, are themes that seem ubiquitous in media today. It’s become the modern mythology of the younger generation to an extent not seen before, and one of the primary drivers of pop culture today. We’ve seen this reflected across the brand film sector. This also makes it an excellent channel through which messages can be delivered, filtered from creatives to the audiences who absorb them.
Screen heroes play a significant role in educating about race, gender, equality and so on. They help us understand our own place in the world, where we fit. These are elements of life that affect us all, and naturally we care about the story and how it unfolds. It’s something the Powers in Hollywood identified long ago for its commercial potential. But while nrg similarly tap into these marvel-esque tropes, they rewardingly opt less for messy special effects and more for message.
Focusing on a young hearing-impaired boy who envisions a superhero that reflects the life he leads, Deaf Thunder emerges as a sweet ode to societal inclusion and the sense of sure-footing that can come from being represented and understood at a young age. Utilising a rousing soundtrack, canny camerawork, and interwoven with comic strip special effects that hark back to the types of abilities most of us imagined from the page, this piece works to both democratise the notion of being ‘super’ and address the lack of equal access to emergency services for those who experience the daily invisibility of their condition.
At a narrative run-time of a little over 2 minutes, the story doesn’t have to flesh out a 2-hour backstory because the piece gently reminds you that, in your head, you already know it. Techniques of filmcraft – the attention given to lighting space and actor on such a small production is surprisingly engaging – heightening the cinematic motifs we attribute to the ‘real’ thing. All the filmmakers need to really focus on here, with the limited time given to them, is to lean on the premise enough without it collapsing under its own weight. It does, so we’re on board. It’s reassuring that, in a world that's increasingly suffering from ‘super fatigue’, this approach doesn’t feel stale. Instead, it angles two index fingers towards itself, unburdened by franchise, and points out its own pastiche. It’s why it works. And it’s this strategy that propels Deaf Thunder upwards with a POW! THWACK! And a ZAP!