See-through masks on Venice red carpet is an ‘inclusive message’, says director

A director whose film is premiering at the Venice Film Festival has said the decision to wear see-through masks on the red carpet in support of deaf and hard of hearing communities is an “inclusive message”.

Portuguese filmmaker Ana Rocha de Sousa, a former actress, debuts her feature film Listen at this year’s festival, which will see attendees wearing face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The film documents the struggle of a Portuguese immigrant family battling the law in London to stay together and stars deaf child actress Maisie Sly.

Lucia Moniz and Maisie Sly in Listen (PA)
Lucia Moniz and Maisie Sly in Listen (PA)

Rocha de Sousa told the PA news agency: “It’s an inclusive message, it’s about not forgetting, not leaving anyone behind, it’s like I also feel that even if you can listen and if you can hear, I think that the mask blocking the view to your mouth, it becomes very difficult sometimes to communicate.

“I think we connect visually a lot, especially when we are talking about people that need to read our lips and that is very important and usually people don’t do it for the wrong reasons, people simply don’t think about it… it’s a simple gesture”.

Listen features British child star Sly, who starred in 2017’s Oscar-winning film The Silent Girl – where she played Libby, who lives in a world of silence until a social worker teaches her the gift of communication.

The film won best live action short film at the Oscars.

Rocha de Sousa hailed the Venice Film Festival as the right platform to make a statement about inclusivity.

She said: “If there’s a right place to do it I think it’s a place like the red carpet because I believe it’s the best way for you to (reach) a lot of people.

“And sometimes if you want to pass a really important message, sometimes it’s much better to do it in an entertainment environment with some simplicity around it, instead of trying to force a message.”

Rocha de Sousa argued it was impossible to make a face covering look glamorous on the red carpet.

“It’s never going to be something really fashionable, no matter what we try to do,” she said, jokingly.

Listen was influenced by a real-life case that featured heavily in the Portuguese press at the time.

Explaining her motivation for making the film, Rocha de Sousa said: “l had become a mother recently when I heard about a Portuguese family going through a forced adoption.

“It was quite spoken (about) in Portugal. It was on the news and that made me research the subject matter and as soon as I started reading about it I was very shocked at the beginning.”

Listen also stars Lucia Moniz and Ruben Garcia as the parents and was shot in London’s east end.