You Should Stream: ‘Ode to Pablo,’ a Story About a Queer, Deaf Afro-Latino Told Through Closed Captions

Lead Photo: Courtesy of Outfest
Courtesy of Outfest
Read more

Upon watching the first shot of Ode to Pablo, you may wonder if you have somehow accidentally turned on YouTube’s closed caption function. A black frame features a helpful aural description: “(electro pop music) (traffic).” You soon hear just that as a bustling city street opens up and Pablo, a young Latino boy sporting a short Afro, weaves his way down the block to a basketball court with earbuds in place. By the time he gets challenged to a friendly game by three imposing young men, it becomes clear that those closed captions —”(low rumble ends) (electro dance music) (dribbling)”— are the way the film is placing us in Pablo’s consciousness. His world is quiet, with only rumblings of the sounds we hear in the short’s muffled soundtrack: He’s deaf. He’s also queer, explaining why the camera just as easily lingers on the shirtless torso of one of his basketball opponents, as on his disarming smile.

The 12-minute, near-silent short, directed by lesbian Xicana  director Adelina Anthony (Vida‘s Rocky), forces audiences to think about the kinds of assumptions we make about everyone we meet on a daily basis. As Pablo (Ian Vasquez) and one of the boys, who first taunted and teased him, strike up an unlikely rapport over Pablo’s headphones, Ode to Pablo quickly complicates their brief encounter. Ode to Pablo is a rare glimpse into the world of a queer, deaf Latino who’s learned to deal with bigoted preconceptions about who he is. As he puts it at one point, “Just because I’m deaf and gay doesn’t make me lesser.” It’s a message as simple as it is powerful.

Watch the full short film below.

Ode to Pablo also screened as part of the Latinx Shorts Showcase “La Vida es un Carnaval” during Outfest 2019.