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'Sound'-ing off in touching 'Fury'

When is a disability not a disability? This paradoxical question is explored by filmmaker Josh Aronson in "Sound and Fury," the most riveting documentary to arrive in theaters this year.

The film centers on two branches of a Long Island, N.Y., family. One of the fathers is deaf, the other can hear, and both have young children diagnosed with hearing disorders. Searching their consciences and discussing the issue with their wives and others, they wrestle with the question of whether to accept a surgical procedure that may allow their youngsters to hear. Two of the parents lean toward giving their offspring greater chances of a normal life. But the others feel differently, arguing that deafness is not a handicap or limitation at all, and that choosing to hear betrays the "deaf culture" they and their friends have learned to cherish.

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Aronson's straightforward filmmaking conveys the complexity of the social, political, and medical issues connected with these matters; and just as important, it etches a vivid portrait of the bedrock human emotions aroused by endless debates involving a wide range of family members and outside experts. The result is gripping, touching, and enlightening.

Not rated; contains medical material.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society