By Nick Romano
September 10, 2019 at 11:54 AM EDT

Sound of Metal

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Sound of Metal is more than just the “Riz Ahmed is shirtless playing drums” movie, although that first image from the film is all the marketing one needs for this.

Ahmed, director Darius Marder, and fellow cast members discussed their hopes for the film within the industry, specifically in terms of what this can mean for the deaf community.

“Everything’s happening right now for deaf actors. This is a great thing,” actor Paul Raci says in an interview from EW and PEOPLE’s video suite at the Toronto International Film Festival. “This movie’s a great opening. It’s making everybody a little woke.”

Sound of Metal stars Ahmed as a metal drummer playing music with his girlfriend and bandmate (Olivia Cooke). However, a ringing his ears gets progressively worse until he loses his hearing altogether.

Lauren Ridloff, who’s set to play the first deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with next year’s The Eternals, also features in the movie.

“It’s very important to remind us, you know, to not keep the deaf community as an afterthought,” deaf actress Chelsea Lee, who makes her feature film acting debut in the movie, says in sign. “We need to be incorporated in the beginning, whether it be in the script development and to have the community and the representation involved from day one and that authenticity and not as an afterthought. That’s key and that was a great part of this film, just to have I think as a good model moving forward to show future productions. And the deaf community created a tone, so the movie carried that.”

Courtesy of TIFF

“Working with Chelsea and the deaf community really opened me up, as well,” Ahmed noted, “because something that my ASL instructor, Jeremy, who’s also in the film, told me is that… Apparently, a lot of deaf people say that hearing people are emotionally repressed, right? ‘Cause we hide behind words… whereas when you express yourself with your whole body, it’s just a much more expressive, honest, visceral experience.”

Marder hopes “the film speaks a universal language.”

“I really hope the film is a film that absolutely anybody can watch from any culture from any community and it’s a movie for humans,” the filmmaker says. “I really wanted this experience to be not one that was, you know, putting on airs or trying to be this, that, or the other thing, but actually just speaking the language that goes way beyond labels, the labels of am I a drummer am I a singer am I a guitarist, am I deaf. It isn’t any of those things. It’s what’s beyond those parts of our identity the human behind them and I think we see into humans all over the movie.”

A standout of TIFF, Sound of Metal earned a spot on EW’s Must List selections from the festival.

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