What’s Out There?

By Richelle H. Verdeprado

This article is based on an interview with Tom Schumann, a filmmaker from Germany.

It was an endeavor that started with the idea of making something for children. It was an idea that had been positively bothering the filmmaker, Tom Schumann, one and a half years ago. It was that same desire to turn the idea into a reality that brought him back to the Philippines, this time with his wife Annett and four-year-old daughter Somi to do a documentary on children speaking with their hands.

What’s Out There?
What’s Out There?
Tom's family enjoying a visit at the Misyon office.

Tom’s first visit in the Philippines was in 1986, together with his father Uwe-Jens Schumann, his Mom and his brother. This visit was very significant for Tom because he first met a two-week-old girl who would later become his adopted sister. Due to the long adoption process it took six months and a number of trips to the Philippines before Tom’s parents could finally take her to Germany.

During those visits Tom witnessed his father’s involvement in Welcome Home in Bacolod City. Welcome Home started as a residence for out-of-town deaf students giving them access to education. Tom was able to meet the late Fr Joseph Coyle, a Columban priest who founded Welcome Home and who became involved with deaf people, celebrating Mass in Sign Language and initiating programs for them. He also met the late Mrs Salvacion ‘Salving’ Tinsay who became involved with the deaf too. Those visits affected Tom’s life immensely and even until now he can remember the joy that he felt when he first saw his sister and then meet the children of Welcome Home. In Tom’s words, ‘You don’t just forget them. You simply can’t'.

Tom is continually fascinated by the way people use their hands in speaking. His daughter was also fascinated and he thinks that if children from Berlin could see children from the Philippines ‘speaking with their hands’ they would also be fascinated. As a father, Tom realized that children have a common language and can understand things in the same, unique ways. ‘Kids love watching other kids’, Tom said. He also shared that when they were shooting the documentary, it was as if he was just having fun with the children. It became a lot easier than he thought it would be. ‘The actual shoot is not a challenge, but how to finish it is. Putting it together will make me sad because that means I’m already back home’, Tom added.

What’s Out There?
Souvenir photo with our editor. What’s Out There?
 Tom sharing his story with the author.<

According to Tom, another interesting feature of this video is that it portrays the children’s life as they are. Whatever happens is the story. In the nine days of shooting, most of the time was spent with the children. Tom and his family were learning Sign Language at the same time. His family is very supportive of him in this endeavor.

As a freelance film maker who has done commercial and fashion videos, Tom describes this project as being really different from what he has done before. There are no pressures in making it. It will be distributed for free and is a non-profit project. Tom is even happier because he could see that the children who were part of this documentary were enjoying themselves too. It’s a very honest story and the fact that it being told by children makes it more authentic.

Tom is envisioning filming at a school for the deaf and blind near Berlin as a second part of this documentary series for children. It is a dream that was stirred during his interaction with about 50 children from Welcome Home aged three to fifteen. These are a cross-section of children with amazing stories to tell, sharing the same classroom, speaking with their hands and communicating in the same language where understanding and love is at the core.

While doing this interview, I could feel Tom’s optimism and passion. He is fueled by that desire to let the children know what’s ‘out there’. But before the hands of these children will speak to the viewers, they have spoken to Tom first.Undoubtedly, the making of this video has spoken to him in a very special way. It has spoken to him in a way that crossed the bridge between German and Filipino, between adult and child, between deaf and hearing.