Wiren is Suriname’s first entry in the Academy Awards. Directed by Ivan Tai-Apin, it exposes an injustice that is hard to believe still exists in the twenty-first century. In Suriname, it is illegal for deaf students to attend university.
We are introduced to Wiren when he is nine years old. He is mischievous, but well-liked. But he doesn’t go to school. When an American doctor arrives in town, he becomes an advocate for Wiren, who is subsequently accepted by a boarding school for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Overcoming opposition from the administration, a determined teacher introduces sign language. Wiren is an excellent student, but still is not allowed to attend university. His father-in-law sponsors Wiren, who graduates from a university in the Netherlands.
When Wiren and his wife return to Suriname, he becomes an activist for the rights of the deaf and hearing-impaired, much to the displeasure of his father-in-law, who doesn’t want Wiren to rock the boat. However, a local lawyer takes on Wiren’s discrimination case on behalf of all the other deaf Surinamese, and Wiren and the lawyer present their arguments before the nation’s Supreme Court.
According to director Tai-Apin, the story was inspired by the life journey of a real person, Wiren Meghoe, to whom Tai-Apin was introduced by Sudobe, a foundation for the deaf and hearing-impaired in Suriname. The real Wiren was denied entry to university and told that after high school deaf children have no choice but to enter the job market. Tai-Apin says, “Thanks to the attention garnered by this film, the real Wiren Meghoe was offered a short internship at the Royal Kentalis College in the Netherlands. He was subsequently hired as a junior information and communications technician [ICT] at the Staatsolie Maatschappij Suriname N.V.”, a state-owned oil company.
The film Wiren, using an all-Surinamese crew, was made with a budget of $95,000. One of three actors who play Wiren, Altaafkhan Dhonre, is deaf, as are many of the extras.