Synopsis: An anxious, Black, deaf teenager, Otto, with a large afro, walks into a barbershop with a corsage in his hand, aiming to get “waves” as a haircut for his prom date. However, the only barber available is Brooks, an easily distracted rookie with something to prove. As the other barbers poke fun at Brook’s empty chair, Brooks decides to give Otto a free haircut. Otto nervously obliges, as he not only needs to communicate his desires without hearing Brooks back, but he also needs to gain his undivided attention.
Jason Dalhouse (Brooks)
As a black man in Boston, I always grew up receiving my haircut from the same barbershop from the same barbers and the same community in my neighborhood. Although there were plenty of other amazing barbers in the area, there was no other place to me that felt like a “home away from home” – a place where you could pretty much talk about anything and everything within the comfort of the community people who looked like you.
In this sense, I always appreciated the culture of this experience. While I understand that not every black barbershop exhibits the same atmosphere, I have always enjoyed the unique conversations that stem from the experience. There was a sense of comradery, amusement, and liveliness that we all shared by being around each other. As an artist, however, I always wondered what it would like for those who may not wholly identify with the culture but also who may not experience it in the same way. How would you feel if you desperately want to belong to a community, yet are limited in what you can relate to? What if you were black, and deaf in a culture like this one full of inside jokes?
These questions, ideas, and emotions dawned on me when I came across an article written by one of my closest friends, fraternity brother, and college roommate, who described what it feels like to “be deaf in black circles.” He vividly accounted for the anxiety, isolation, and the self-consciousness that deaf people may experience daily, but especially within the context of the black community- where these feelings are even more grave and heightened because they are a part of that community as well. As he is strong-willed and unusual, he will be the first person to let you know that, although being deaf is a huge part of his life, it does not solely define him or his purpose in his world. My relationship with him has compelled me continuously to consider my privileges and biases that I overlook quite often.
In this way, “Waves” is a film about the emergence of these two worlds, the deaf and black community, where two individuals are confronted with reality. In hopes of doing justice to this narrative, I thank my friend for vulnerably lending the inspiration that led me to create this film. This story is for the deaf and black audiences in the world who either are all too familiar with this experience or not at all. My wish is that this film, somehow, resonates with you.
Agazi Desta is a first generation Ethiopian-American writer and director from the city of Boston. Coming from a humble background, he has a deeply innate interest in drawing vision from the communities that surround him. As a published writer (Thought Catalog) and award winning director (The Bread Winner, 2017 Global Film Festival Selection, & Side Effects, The Caucus Foundation, Best T.V. Drama) he derives his passion in filmmaking from a literary discipline, gaining inspiration in the genres of drama, dark fantasy, and mystery. He started his filmmaking career by creating social justice films, which ranged from displaying the unseen effects of incarceration on families to identifying issues of race and ethnicity in our world. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, he had co-written and co-directed his first feature film, Voodoo Macbeth (2020), during his academic tenure, which narrates the controversial success story of a young Orson Welles directing an all black-cast of Macbeth during the 1930’s Harlem Depression Era. In addition to filmmaking, he enjoys listening to rap music, soulful and alternative instrumentals, photography, and reading contemporary novels.