CODA made me laugh. It’s the only film I’ve seen at Sundance this year so far that has. CODA is a simple yet heartwarming teen coming-of-age story set in a fishing town outside Boston. Although predictable, and at times straining believability, it follows a deaf family who has only one hearing daughter, Ruby. She is caught between wanting to follow her path toward college as a singer or staying on-deck of her father’s ship where she is the only one who can interpret and communicate over the radio.
As new fishing restrictions are put in place for environmental protection, regulators are assigned to each boat and fishing families struggle to pay for the required audits. CODA centers on the family unit as a method for survival and the need for individuation as a child decides what type of adult they want to become.
CODA puts a hearing viewer in the shoes of someone who is deaf. The sound cuts out at multiple points throughout the film and you’re invited to sit with the silence that many experience during events, social gatherings, or in the workplace. It’s not hard to make the leap and imagine what a place of religious worship would be like for someone if they can’t hear. For this reason alone this film is extremely important. The church has historically done a poor job of providing a hospitable place at the table for all worshippers. In Disability and the Way of Jesus, Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox writes about how our theology of hospitality and healing both impact how we share space in ministry with people who walk through life differently.
CODA is a film you can gather a family or small group around, and it will have an impact whether or not you pair it with McKinney Fox’s book. But together they could provide a conversation starter and beginning guide to understanding disability and opening the doors of the church to everyone.