APRIL 16, 2021
USA | 15 minutes | 2019
Drama, romance short film directed by Saleem Nasir Gondal
Starring Saleem Nasir Gondal, DaMonique Ballou
Wahid’s hearing loss has made adjusting to the chaotic pace of New York difficult to navigate. When he meets Samar at a party, they forge a romantic connection through dance. Things seem to be looking up — but can he keep the momentum going off the dance floor? The film is a romantic drama based off my own experiences being hard of hearing, utilizing inventive sound design, choreography and music to convey the perspective of someone who wears hearing aids — an ode to the power of empathy and body language when words fail us.
CineAsian Films (CAF): We absolutely loved this film. How much of your own personal experiences did you include in Super Sonic?
Saleem Nasir Gondal: Thank you! Super Sonic is heavily inspired by my personal experiences dating as a hard of hearing person in New York. I was born with the kind of hearing loss depicted in the film, something that I was always ashamed about when I was growing up. All of the scenes of Wahid’s hearing getting in the way of meeting people or keeping up at work, all happened to me. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I comfortably identified with my hearing loss. And like Wahid, I wouldn’t have been able to feel that if it weren’t for love.
CAF: Because it’s so personal and you understand first-hand how difficult it is for hard of hearing audiences, there’s an extra level of care put into every aspect of this film. How important was it for you that there was true representation for the community onscreen?
Gondal: I was originally thinking about casting someone who wasn’t hard of hearing for the role. But the more I thought about it, I felt like a film that was explicitly about the representation of hard of hearing people needed a HOH person in the role. I wasn’t sure if I was the right person for the role since I had little acting experience, but I was encouraged by my team to go for it. If this is the only film I make about my hearing loss, then I wanted to make sure I got it right.
I knew from the beginning the film should have captions burned on screen. There are multiple kinds of hearing loss, and I wanted to make sure this film could be accessible to all folks in the Deaf/hard of hearing community. The best way to do that was to be true to my specific experience.
CAF: The sound design really helped emphasize just how difficult it is for those who are hard of hearing. What do you hope able-bodied people can take away from watching this film?
Gondal: Throughout the process of showing the film, what has surprised me the most is how many people I met who told me they identified with Wahid’s hearing loss. As an invisible disability, hearing loss is more common than it appears. And the hardest thing about hearing loss is not having the time or understanding from others to communicate. With a little patience and empathy, many of the barriers in the way of hard of hearing people can be easily dealt with.
I would love it if this film de-mystifies hearing loss for hearing audiences, and shows them that one does not need to hear in order to listen and understand others.
CAF: Are you working on anything new and exciting?
Gondal: I have a few projects in the works COVID-willing. The next project I’m working on follows a dancer who battles her reflection in the mirror, which I’m really excited to shoot. I also have a period piece short film in the works about a romance between a Punjabi immigrant and Mexican immigrant on a farm in California during the turn of the 20th century. The story is based in the Punjabi-Mexican communities that formed despite the intense xenophobia of the time, and how love can form between people who don’t speak the same language.
Super Sonic is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer: Saleem Nasir Gondal
Producer: Sofia Geld
Cinematographer: Adewale Olukayode
Editor: Rachel Lawlor
Music: Mantra, Airhead DC & madlovely
Also featuring: Alisha Bhowmik, Michael S. Horowitz