September 22, 2020 – “Can You Hear My Voice?” kicks off its film festival run with a U.S. premiere at the 2020 Nashville Film Festival (Music Features Competition), October 1-7. In the weeks to follow, the film will screen at several other U.S festivals, including the Heartland International Film Festival in Indiana (October 8-19) where it’s a documentary-feature finalist. Other festival screenings in October and November include Doc Utah, the Twin Cities International Film Festival, and the Kansas International Film Festival.
The film chronicles the one-of-a-kind Shout at Cancer choir in the UK, whose members have all had their voice boxes removed, as they prepare for their most ambitious concert – a sold-out performance at London’s historic Tabernacle theater. The film includes songs popularized by Nina Simone, Tears for Fears, and Louis Armstrong. Along the way, choir members’ cancer stories unfold, revealing their struggles with self-identity, self-doubt, and loss. Far from maudlin, “Can You Hear My Voice?” bears witness to the power of music, and is a triumphant testimony illuminating a universal theme – the human capacity for resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity.
“Can You Hear My Voice?” is produced and directed by Bill Brummel, a Peabody Award and International Documentary Award-winning filmmaker, and five-time national Emmy award nominee, who had his own voice box removed in 2016, due to the long-term damage caused by radiation treatments he underwent 22 years ago.
A laryngectomy alters some of the most basic human functions such as speaking, breathing and eating. Like the choir members, Brummel now speaks with the aid of a voice prosthesis and breathes through a surgically created hole in his neck, called a stoma. Brummel says that having a laryngectomy is physically and emotionally grueling. “Because of drastic changes in our appearance and a radical shift in the way we speak, laryngectomees can easily lose self-confidence and retreat from society, withdrawing into a world where we don’t have to speak or be seen in public. But when we self-quarantine, loneliness and depression are sure to follow. There were times when I found it easier to isolate rather than navigate.”
Brummel says it took him more than a year to physically and psychologically recover. Then, at a regularly scheduled appointment with his surgeon, Dr. Uttam Sinha of the Keck Medicine of USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology suggested that Brummel make a film about how to cope with the psychosocial obstacles of living after having a laryngectomy.
Brummel went in search of a story to illustrate the topic. He found it with Shout at Cancer, the world’s only nonprofit Charity specializing in speech training with music after laryngectomy. Founded by an Ear, Nose and Throat physician and former member of the Belgium Boys Choir, Dr. Thomas Moors combined knowledge gained from both pursuits, “The voice travels with you from birth, grows with you. It is your expression of thoughts. It’s who you are. If you suddenly lose your voice, it leaves scars – physical and emotional. Shout at Cancer employs the use of singing and breathing techniques to improve vocal outcomes for laryngectomees, thereby rebuilding lost confidence, and redefining the boundaries of ability.”
The film is imbued with themes of mortality, self-identity, adversity, disability, resilience, and courage. Interspersed with the concert rehearsals and performance are personal accounts of three choir members. Their specific stories are examples of the broad experiences of laryngectomy patients, and how they traversed the traumatic psychosocial obstacles of living without a voice box, to emerge as fully engaged, communicative and accomplished human beings.
Brummel is confident the film will attract a broad audience, “It’s a story of survival and empowerment with a message that will resonate with people combatting other diseases, disabilities, or personal struggles, which — when you think of it — is all of us. Through the film, I want to encourage people who are struggling through the dark period of recovery of any kind to hold on.”
Available for interviews:
– Bill Brummel – Director/Producer – email@example.com
– Dr. Thomas Moors – Director of the Shout at Cancer Choir (London)
– Individual choir members available upon request
For further information, contact:
Bill Brummel Bio
Bill Brummel is an award-winning documentary producer/director. He has been recognized with a Peabody Award, a primetime Emmy nomination, several National News and Documentary Emmy nominations, and two International Documentary Association awards. After having his voice box removed in 2016, Brummel produced and directed “Can You Hear My Voice?”. The film chronicles London’s Shout at Cancer choir, whose singers are also living without voice boxes. Many of Brummel’s previous films have focused on civil rights and human rights issues. Some of Brummel’s other credits include Selma-The Bridge to the Ballot, Erasing Hate, Blood Diamonds, Rwanda-Do Scars Ever Fade?, Viva La Causa, Bullied, Inside Pol Pot’s Secret Prison, Opus Dei Unveiled, Civil Rights Martyrs, Standing Tall at Auschwitz, Child Warriors, The Greensboro Massacre, Inside North Korea, and The Ku Klux Klan: A Secret History.
Video Link: http://player.vimeo.com/video/386526239