In Depth

HBO: 'Hear and Now'

Irene Taylor Brodsky learned just a few weeks beforehand that her parents, in their 60s and both deaf all their lives, had decided to get cochlear implants that had the potential to allow them to hear for the first time.

“I don’t think they saw it as this life-changing, life-altering thing,” said Ms. Brodsky, who saw it differently. She turned the experience into the Peabody Award-winning HBO documentary “Hear and Now.”

As much love story as window into what it means to be deaf, the film re-creates the couple’s life from 8mm and Super-8 family films, documents their intimate hopes for the devices, and then takes viewers through their wonder in realizing that waves make noise and the tears of unrealized expectations. “It’s not a Hollywood ending,” she said, although “from a relationship standpoint, it was a home run.”

Ms. Brodsky, 38, eased her parents into the idea of a film, first suggesting she just videotape them in advance of the surgery. “I thought it was a really enormous request,” she said. “They thought it was me documenting just another thing.” By the time of the operations, she said, she realized that an actual film was “totally at the point of no return.”

Even at the most difficult times, Ms. Brodsky said her mother never asked her to turn off the camera, although once she did suggest that she was sick of the intrusiveness. And her parents, who had always taken family films, turned out to be natural, unselfconscious subjects.

Ms. Brodsky wasn’t sure how much to put herself, and her fears, into the film. Others convinced her she did need to be in the story, but, she said, “You really only get enough doses of me that I can tolerate.”

It was the first feature-length film for Ms. Brodsky, a former producer for “CBS Sunday Morning” who lives in Portland, Ore. The film brought her family closer, she said, but it also gave her a gift.

She delivered her first son just two days after finishing the film, and later discovered that he has profound hearing loss. Hearing her parents’ stories for the film “has given me the tools to cope with something I just didn’t think I’d have, a deaf kid,” she said.