Ex-Hollyoaks Actress Wins Oscar And Gives Speech In Sign Language

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A former Hollyoaks actor gave an Oscar-winning speech in sign language after winning the prestigious award for a short film about a deaf girl.

Last night Rachel Shenton picked up the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short for The Silent Child, a story which tells the tale of four-year-old Libby who is taught sign language by a social worker.

You can watch the trailer here:

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At the glittering awards ceremony, Shenton said she wanted to give hope to deaf children, and delivered the powerful address in sign language.

You can watch it in the clip below, from ABC:

She said – and signed:

I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I’d sign this speech. Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence. It’s not exaggerated or sensationalised for the movie.

This is happening. Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers. And particularly access to education.

Slick Films

Alongside her partner and fellow filmmaker, Chris Overton, Shenton concluded:

So, deafness is a silent disability. You can’t see it and it’s not life-threatening. So I want to say the biggest of thank you to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience.

Shenton told This Morning about her process:

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Speaking ahead of the Oscars, Rachel said:

This is the first film I have written. It’s incredibly close to me so the writing of the story felt natural.

People don’t know about this subject so ultimately I wanted people to leave the cinema feeling more educated and to spark a conversation.

Channel 4

Shenton played Mitzee in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, but went onto star in The Silent Child, which was directed by her fiancé, as a social worker.

The 30-year-old, from Stoke-on-Trent, was inspired to write the film because of her own experience. When she was 12-years-old her father Geoff went deaf after having chemotherapy and could not hear for the last 18 months of his life.

Her determination to represent the deaf community hasn’t gone unnoticed:

Shenton joins Louise Fletcher, Jane Fonda, and Marlee Matlin as other actors who have incorporated sign language into their Oscars acceptance speeches.

After all, the deaf community – and all with disabilities – need to be heard:

In May Rachel will show the film in parliament and hopes that sign language will one day be introduced to the national curriculum.

The film – whose starring role is played by six-year-old novice actor Maisie Sly, from Swindon, who is deaf – has won the hearts and minds of all who have viewed it, and will be screened in over 600 cinemas in the US.

Shenton is now working on the feature film version.

Fox Searchlight

Other winners last night include The Shape Of Water, which won Best Film and Best Director, for Guillermo Del Toro’s efforts.

Best Actor went to Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour and Best Actress to Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

You can watch the trailer here:

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Ebbing‘s Sam Rockwell won Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress went to Alison Janney for her performance in I, Tonya.

Congratulations to all the winners!