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Independent Lens: The Tuba Thieves

Closing the Spring season of Independent Lens documentaries, the unconventional sonic exploration The Tuba Thieves will premiere on WHRO TV 15 on May 20, 2024. 

But you can catch a preview before the broadcast date.

Join WHRO Public Media's Emerging Leaders Board for this one-night screening of the Independent Lens film The Tuba Thieves along with a discussion following the film.

Indie Lens Pop-Up Screening: The Tuba Thieves

May 16, 6:30 p.m. The Slover, Norfolk 235 E Plume St, Norfolk, VA 23510

*Guests must register for a seat via Eventbrite *Light refreshments will be provided for guests

About the Film:

Directed, written, and produced by hard-of-hearing filmmaker Alison O’Daniel, the film uses a series of tuba thefts in Los Angeles high schools as a jumping-off point to explore the nature of sound itself, through several d/Deaf people telling stories in the film equivalent of a game of telephone.

Between 2011 and 2013, tubas were stolen from high schools across Southern California. While reporters focused on the thieves, O'Daniel was curious about the impact of the thefts on the students and school communities. She wondered how these thefts were altering the sound of the bands, which ultimately led her to question the role of sound itself and what it means to listen. In “The Tuba Thieves,” O'Daniel explores the question of sound, prioritizing a form of storytelling in which information collides and is allowed to be misunderstood. In prioritizing Deaf and hard-of-hearing communication, she generates new sensitivity to sound and meaning.

“Music isn’t necessarily about listening, and hearing is not always an auditory experience,” said Director, Writer, and Producer Alison O’Daniel. “With The Tuba Thieves, I wanted to create a holistic exploration of musicality and the expansion of sound, with an eye towards both hearing and d/Deaf/hard of hearing audiences experiencing the story in similar ways.”

Throughout the film, we are introduced to Nyke Prince, a Deaf woman who is given a drum kit; Geovanny Marroquin, a high school saxophone player impacted by the tuba thefts; and Sam Quinones, an L.A. Times reporter seeking answers. Various Los Angeles musicians are also highlighted, performing in Deaf spaces and presenting concerts frequently (mis)interpreted as silent.

O’Daniel worked on the project for 11 years before premiering it at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023. The film is bolstered by open captioning, which O’Daniel and two other hard-of-hearing team members worked on to create a more accessible audiovisual experience, expanding them to include more detail and creative sound description than typical films.

The Tuba Thieves is a one-of-a-kind film and sonic experience,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of Independent Lens. “Alison O’Daniel has created a project that pushes us to think beyond our perspective and uses music, sound, and open captions to show, not just tell, the stories of Nyke, Geovanny, and the curious tuba thefts.”

The Tuba Thieves premieres Monday, May 20, at 10:00 p.m. on WHRO TV 15.