Film about deaf wrestler winning audiences
Rarely do filmmakers touch on, no less produce a film about an inspiration to the deaf community. But co-producer and co-writer Eben Kostbar did just that with his film The Hammer (Kaplan, 2010) based on the life of deaf wrestler Matt Hamill who overcame not only his deafness but a high-risk, low-income background as well. Hamill is a three-time NCAA Division II National Champion in wrestling as well as the winner of several other wrestling awards and a former contestant on the reality show The Ultimate Fighter. His life story inspired Kostbar, who in turn met and talked with him about turning his story into a film. Although he knows American Sign Language, Kostbar admitted he didn’t have much experience with deaf people and was especially fascinated by Hamill’s achievements. A fan of underdog films and a former wrestler himself, Kostbar felt the movie would draw the interest of hearing and deaf people alike. He made sure the film had deaf crew members and that people of the deaf community were involved throughout production, even casting deaf actor Russell Harvard starring in the lead role of Hamill. Kostbar’s dedication to making the film authentic and shedding light on the deaf community seems to have paid off: The Hammer became a film festival success story, winning audience-favorite awards almost everywhere and landing a theatrical distribution deal and DVD release.