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Zeinabu Irene Davis' first feature depicts two tragic love stories between a deaf woman and a hearing man, one taking place at the dawn of the twentieth century, the other at the turn of the twenty-first.
Director Zeinabu Irene Davis' first feature depicts two Chicago-set love stories — one taking place at the dawn of the twentieth century, the other at the turn of the twenty-first — in which the romance between a deaf woman and a hearing man (Michelle A. Banks and John Earl Jelks) is shattered when the man is diagnosed with tuberculosis in the early story, the woman with AIDS in the contemporary one. Inspired by a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (who died of tuberculosis in 1906 at the age of thirty-three), Compensation considers the ephemeral nature of love and life while illustrating the enduring challenges of race and racism over the course of a century. Modifying her original conception after casting deaf actress Banks, Davis makes extensive use of sign language and ornate title cards, both making the film accessible to deaf audiences and paying homage to Black filmmakers of the silent era.