Only I Can Hear

In the American Midwest, three hearing teenagers come of age in the vibrant, raucous Deaf community. In search of a home between two disparate worlds, the young women explore their unique identity as CODA — Children of Deaf Adults.

Home video footage shows Nyla as a happy, healthy baby, laughing and learning to sign “mama” with her Deaf parents. But Nyla isn’t deaf. She is a CODA, a Child of Deaf Adults.

CODAs coexist in two realms: the vibrant Deaf community, and the prosaic world of the hearing. Yet their lives encompass struggles and joys unknown to either.

Nyla wants to be Deaf. But as she turns 15, she finds herself inextricably pulled towards the hearing world, and away from her beloved Deaf community. Meanwhile, Jessica, a wry 16-year old, just wants to be “normal”, and 14-year old Mackenzie feels trapped in a “double life”.

For these young CODA, a unique summer camp offers a chance to explore their identity, under the gentle guidance of their mentors—the first-wave of self-identifying CODA.

Ashley, a role model for the girls, is happy to help them grow into their identities. But when she becomes pregnant, she confronts doubts of her own. What if her son is hearing? Could the Deaf lineage, and her profound connection to that world, end with him?

As these four young women seek companionship in their shared experience, Only I Can Hear reveals a complex choreography of life skills, language, and perceptions that form their universe.



Director / Cameraman– Itaru Matsui
Co-director / Cinematography – Heath Cozens
Cameraman – Joel Van Haren, Hiroki Takano
Editors – Herbert Hunger, Geoff Klein
Composer – Tenniscoats,
Music – twenty one pilots
Additional Music – Alain Savoie

Audio Engineer – Tominaga Kenichi
Colorist – Teiji Shimizu

Concept – Ashley Ryan

Footage From – Randy Robert

Sign language Interpreter
– Ashley Ryan, Brittany Ryan, Terri Neal, Malinda Oakland, Yoko Shouji

English-Japanese Interpreter – Miwa Aida

Executive Producer – Mayu Hirano

Co-producers – Paul Cadieux,
Co-producers / Script Advisor – Nancy Guerin

Producer – Kengo Toyoda

Production Manager – Melissa Mira

Special Thanks –
(出演者の名前 Yugen)
KODA Camp Midwest, Nasu Hideaki, Karen Dishno Voss, イヤークリニック、タトゥーショップ、Kyle McCloskey, Satoshi Chiba, Takahiro Hamano, Antje Boehmert, Paul Pauwels.
Tokyo Docs, Docedge Kolkata, Hot Docs.

Co-produced with Megafun

About the Director

Itaru Matsui, Born in Tokyo, 1984.
As a documentary filmmaker, Itaru has made it his mission to bring to our attention the voices that are drowned out by society. He brings them to the surface by immersing himself deeply into their communities.


2014, “Fukushima’s Fishermen”(NHK), 49 min’, about the despair of fishermen who lost all hope for their future following the nuclear contamination of the seas.

2014-2015, Asia Insight(NHK world) 30min ×6 programs

2015, “On That Day, in a Silent World” (NHK World) 30 min’.
Deaf survivors of the 2011 Tsunami use sign language to recount their personal memories of the tragedy.

2016, “Businessman Rap” (The Guardian) 5 min’.
Businessmen gather to battle it out on Tokyo’s underground rap scene.
TOKYODOCS short documentary showcase, BEST award 2016
Yahoo! Japan MVP 2016
The Guardian website “cities” (featured in “TOKYO” section)

2017, “There’s a New Kid in Town” (NHK BS1) 49 min’.
A rural village on the brink of extinction finds new purpose when a young stranger arrives.

“Only I Can Hear”
His current feature documentary about children of Deaf adults has won the Best Pitch Award at TOKYODOCS in 2016, and was chosen for participation at HOTDOCS Forum in 2017. Only I Can hear is his feature documentary directorial debut.

2020, “TOKYO Ritornello” How Tokyo had suffered from the last two decades of social issues? A Pandora’s box opened when confronting a double task of rejuvenating for the 2021 Olympics and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Who will pay for it? A tale of Tokyo’s angry citizens trying to find rebirth as they quietly hum a tune. Won the Journalism award in Japan.

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WRITTEN BYFusce pulvina & Nam cursus

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