The Tuba Thieves

Alison O’Daniel / / 2023

A series of mysterious tuba thefts plagued the music schools of Southern California for years. The mystery continues to rumble in this laid-back and playful hybrid film from Los Angeles by a d/Deaf director who uses sign language and subtitles creatively.

The atmosphere is as cool, laid-back and unmistakably Californian as Chet Baker’s trumpet, but it’s a slightly more offbeat instrument that takes centre stage in d/Deaf filmmaker Alison O’Daniel’s charming and playful hybrid debut. For years, California music schools were plagued by a mysterious series of tuba thefts that were never solved. The tubas are a Hitchcockian MacGuffin in a film that instead develops as a warm and rambunctious portrait of a community of d/Deaf people in Los Angeles. Indeed, in an innovative and original move, sign language, sound and subtitles form a creative whole where everyone in the audience meets in the middle, whether they are d/Deaf or not. One wonders why no one has had this good idea before. The result is a film that doesn’t really look – or sound! – like any other.