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Part of SFFILM Festival

Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements

Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky

USA | Documentary | 90

17 Apr
Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 6:00 pm
Creativity Theater
Creativity Theater 221 4th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103 United States
21 Apr
Sun, Apr 21 at 6:00 pm
SFMOMA Phyllis Wattis Theater

Guests Expected

Director Irene Taylor Brodsky is expected to attend both screenings.


Award-winning filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky’s latest work is an exquisite ode to family lineage and legacy. Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements is a personal and affecting portrait of Brodsky’s young son, Jonas, who is able to hear because of cochlear implants, and her deaf parents, especially her father Paul, who shares a unique and warm affinity with Jonas even as he’s diagnosed with early signs of dementia. Brodsky artfully weaves animation and Beethoven’s music to illustrate, as well as challenge, the perception of deafness as a disability.

“I had 80 years of these family plot points at my fingertips. I knew if I curated them with the discipline of a director (and not the nostalgia of a mother and a daughter), they could take viewers deep into the emotional center of my family. After my creative team went home, I’d sit alone late into the night clicking through a labyrinth of images, trawling old and forgotten hard drives, watching reels of 8mm movies, collating video tapes to be transferred. No matter how many selects reels I made, I still ended up with too much. Any memoir runs the risk of being too indulgent. The hidden challenge for me was the discipline it took to craft meaning and narrative out of our imagery, not simply take you on my own trip down memory lane.” – Irene Taylor Brodsky, Filmmaker magazine interview, January 2019

Accessibility Information

The venues for these screenings are equipped with the following assistance devices. They are available on a first come, first served basis at the theater. To request a device, please check in with the venue manager upon arrival.

Theater at the Children’s Creativity Museum
Audio description – 4 devices
Closed captioning – 8 devices

SFMOMA Phyllis Wattis Theater
Audio description – 20 devices
Closed captioning – 8 devices

Director Irene Taylor Brodsky

Like Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements (2019), Irene Taylor Brodsky’s debut documentary, Hear and Now (2007), focused on her own family. That film won multiple awards, including a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and a Peabody. Among her other films are The Final Inch (2009), nominated for a Best Documentary, Short Subject Oscar and three News & Documentary Emmy Awards; and Beware the Slenderman (2016), nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award. Says the filmmaker of her latest work, “My deaf son was obsessed with the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ and started learning it on his own without his teacher’s permission. I was so smitten by the melody and mood of the piece that I looked it up. I soon fell down the rabbit hole, reading Beethoven’s handwritten letters from his early career as an artist going deaf. Emerging from a deep depression in 1801, he wrote the ‘Moonlight Sonata.’ His story, and his deafness, took my breath away. It made me want to follow my son’s journey as he painstakingly learned each note.”

Film Details

Year 2019

Language English, American Sign Language

Runtime 90

Country USA

Director Irene Taylor Brodsky

Producer Irene Taylor Brodsky, Tahria Sheather

Editor Bill Weber, Irene Taylor Brodsky

Cinematographer Irene Taylor Brodsky, Nick Midwig

Music Dylan Stark, Ben Johnson