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Deaf Randolph filmmaker’s movie a hit at festival

Filmmaker Arthur Luhn (left) during filming in Hanover of “The House Across the Street.”

Filmmaker Arthur Luhn (left) during filming in Hanover of “The House Across the Street.”

NEW FILM TO BE SCREENED: Arthur Luhn was born deaf, and is unable to hear a thing. But that hasn’t stopped the Randolph resident from pursuing his dream of making movies.

Luhn, a full-time filmmaker and director, doesn’t make a big deal of his deafness, or his success in winning awards for his work.

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His movie “Conned,” a comedy about bungling Boston mobsters, some of whom are portrayed by deaf actors who use sign language to communicate, took home awards for best feature, best director, and best cinematography at the 2011 Real to Reel International Film Festival in North Carolina.

“It’s exceeded my expectations, way beyond anything I was initially expecting. I’m very humbled by what’s happened,” said Luhn, communicating by typing answers on his laptop. “I was just hoping to make a feature that would come across as funny, as likeable. It’s a comedy-action film, light fare.”

The fact that “Conned” has deaf actors isn’t the point, he said. Making a good film is.

“They’re just a small part of the movie, they’re just there, without explanation,” he said. “In many films that have deaf characters, there’s always some pretext that they’re there, usually it’s a depressing storyline and the plot is always oriented towards them in some way, as if they symbolize how everyone should be feeling fortunate in some way.”

Luhn writes all his own films, including “Conned,” which was also nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2011 New York City International Film Festival. The film premiered in Boston on Oct. 2, and another screening is scheduled for Thursday  at AMC Loews Theatre-Boston Common 19, with Kuhn and cast in attendance. The R-rated film has a general release date of Oct. 23, and Luhn hopes to land it in area theaters.

The film, made at a cost of $500,000 and privately funded, was filmed entirely in the Boston area, including a scene at Logan Airport, which Luhn said would seem to be impossible, given security in the post-9/11 era.

“To this day, I’m not sure how we got in, but we did,” said Luhn about securing permission to shoot at the airport. “We had only one day to do it, and we pulled it off.”

Outside Boston, filming was done at places including Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville.

More recently, Luhn finished filming a thriller, “The House Across the Street,” starring Eric Roberts and Alex Rocco, which was filmed mostly in Hanover, East Bridgewater, and Easton. It is now in post-production, he said.

Luhn, who is in his late 30s, is a Colorado native and moved to Vermont with his family at the age of 3. He found moviemaking a few years later, using an 8-millimeter camera to make films around his house. He graduated from Boston University in 1996, temporarily losing interest in filmmaking and studying philosophy and religion. He never left the area and moved to Randolph about 10 years ago, he said.

After BU, he renewed his interest in film and made his first short film, “Destination Eyeth,” which was featured on PBS’s “History Through Deaf Eyes,” then went on to write and direct his first feature film, “The Golden Legacy,” a thriller that uses sign language and finger spelling to twist the plot. Luhn also wrote a novel in 2002, “In the Name of Silence,” about an eccentric deaf man who lives with his mother.

According to the “Conned” website, the film is about the formerly strong Boston mob scene being left to “dysfunctional criminals deemed unworthy of being put behind bars,” with a cast of characters “that can’t take directions from anyone, simply because they can’t hear a single thing; their preferred method of communication is sign language.”

And while the deaf angle is a noticeable part of the film, Luhn hopes that melts into the background, as did the silent-film technique of Oscar-winning “The Artist.”  

“I really wanted to stay away from that,” Luhn said when asked if it’s important that viewers don’t see his movie as being about deaf criminals, but rather criminals who happen to be deaf, “and just see them as simply being there, without reason or explanation. They’re just there.”

For more information on the film, visit www.connedthefilm.com.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at Kandarian@globe.com.
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