So What Is Netflix’s Audio Description Strategy?

Recently, I talked about the lack of audio description on Bardo, and my experience asking for English Audio Description for a title directed by an Academy Award Winning director that has a much larger budget than your typical Netflix release. Technically, the film has two audio tracks. Spanish, and Spanish Audio Description, and while it offers Subtitles and Closed Captioning in multiple languages, it has only one audio. A fellow AD enthusiast decided to be the dissenting opinion on this topic, by saying this is typical of Netflix. But is it?

Just randomly selecting titles Netflix is trying to throw my way, I sought out foreign language titles to see how their offerings compare. Here’s what I found out.

A Storm For Christmas

I have no idea what this is, but it has six audio tracks, and is not directed by an Oscar winning director. however, I will admit, two of those are Norwegian and Norwegian Audio Description. The other four are just dubs for German, French, Spanish, and English. Taht’s still a lot of audio tracks more than Bardo. It also offers a few subtitles, and two closed captioning tracks, including one for English.

Beast Of Angelor: Indian Predator

This is actually a series. It has some languages I’m not sure my screen reader is reading properly, and does offer only one audio description in it’s original language. however, it does have 7 dubbed languages, making it a hell of a lot more accessible just to people in general, as well as multiple subtitles, and two closed captioning tracks.

Gutama (Spelling might not be right…)

This is a Japanese series that offers audio description not just in its original language, but also Spanish. Not to mention multiple audio dubs, including English. So, here’s a title with another audio description track not in it’s original language.

Private Lessons

Another title that has a second audio description track, and multiple dubs. Private Lessons is a Turkish original, where it has Turkish Audio Description, but it also has Spanish Audio Description, as well as dubs for Spanish, German, French, and English. Also, two CC tracks, one of them being English.

The Elephant Whisperers

This one is also in a language my screen reader is mumbling, and admittedly has only one audio description track in that original language. However, they did bother to dub it into not just the typical English, Spanish, French, and German, but they splurged for Italian and hindi as well. It also has two CC tracks.

Delivery By Christmas

This is a Polish original, and it has Polish Audio Description. However, it also has Spanish Audio Description. So that’s two AD tracks, not to mention dubs in English, French, German, and Spanish.

Troll

Now, this one would blow my boy Nick’s mind, because Netflix has invested in four audio description tracks. This Norwegian film not only has original audio description for its own country, but carries audio description for Spanish, German, and French. Not to mention, all of those have dubs, whereas English just has a dub and a CC track (the film has three CC’s).

Bardo

Oh, look, thre’s the offending film in question. It does have English CC, as well as Spanish CC, but what it doesn’t have is one single alternative audio track outside of its original language. Seems a bit odd considering you likely didn’t know the other titles, or anyone in them, and this is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inirritu who has films like Birdman, The Revenant, and Babel under his belt, along with the Oscar for Best Director. So, not only have he directed a Best Picture winner, but he’s an Oscar winner himself. And there are no alternative audio tracks, and apparently I’m crazy for thinking that English Audio Description here feels logical.

A Man Of Action

No idea what this is, but it has specifically Europeaon Spanish audio description, plus dubs in English, French, and German, as well as two CC tracks.

The Big Four

This has audio description in the original language, Indonesian, and dubs for English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Filipino.

Who Is A Good Boy

This Spanish title doesn’t seem to be as popular, offering only audio description in Spanish, and two dubs in English and Brazilian Portuguese.

Glitter

This is a Polish title with AD in the original language, and dubs in English, French, German, and Spanish.

I Hate Christmas

Proving Christmas is everywhere, this Italian title has audio description in its original language, as well as a Spanish Audio Description track. it also has dubbed audio for English, German, and French.

Mocka

This movie, about divers finding danger in the Red Sea (whose title I’m sure I butchered) is an anomaly. It only has 1 audio track, in its original language, of Arabic/Egypt, and no audio description. So, I guess Alejandro is like Arabic cinema now? Just, slightly more accessible because he bothered to produce an audio description track? This is the closest comp Netflix has recommended to me, and it dosn’t have a single AD track.

The Marriage App

no idea what this is, but it has only audio description in the original language (Spanish), but dubs in Italian, French, English, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Helldogs and the House Of Bamboo

I found one. I finally found a title that is comparable to Bardo. I mean, no one knows what the fuck this is, or who directed it, and I’m sure Innarritu would be offended by me comparing his film to this, but this is a film that only has two audio tracks. Japanese, and audio description in that original language.

Since I finally found a foreign title compared to Bardo, which was nominated by the Critics Choice awards for Besst non-English Feature, I can rest easy now. Clearly, Netflix is in the pattern of only recording one language audio track, as I’ve proven. After exhaustingly searching multiple titles, i proved that Netflix does not provide audio description for any language other than the original, and certainly doesn’t offer dubbed audio in any non-original language. I was crazy to look at this film and think something was off. Thanks to Nick, I have found peace.\sarcasm

But seriously, I went down Recently Added, skipped English titles, and also some reality shows that might have been in another language, but I didn’t bother to check. What you can see is that it took me a while going down the list to find a film like that, where there were no alternative audio tracks of any kind. And that’s for a film that, quite frankly, no one in this country is likely to have heard of without browsing their Netflix. It wasn’t a film that was taken around to film festivals, and it isn’t a film that Netflix is currently launching an Oscar campaign for.

And, in every single one of these cases, there was at least an English CC track for the deaf and hard of hearing. There’s a difference between CC and subtitles, just like there is between dub and audio description. CC is designed to also include sounds that a deaf person would miss out on, like doorbells, screams, horns, door closures, footsteps, phone rings, etc. Audio Description is different from dubbing, because it lets us know what visual cues we are missing, instead of just turning all the dialogue into English. it does that too, because we can’t read the subtitles, but it also lets us know when someone enters a room, what they look like, what they are wearing, and many visual vital details.

I’m tired of settling, and I hate when people act like we should be happy with some shriveled percentage. Another person contributed to the same conversation saying they were not surprised that Netflix had this attitude toward AD, as when they interviewed there, when accessibility came up, the reason they gave for not providing more audio description was so that they could provide more content. But, if you’re providing content with limited accessibility, who is it for? Shouldn’t you do more of what Apple does, and produce content (in any language) and just make it widely accessible in multiple languages with CC and AD tracks?

No, Netflix, I’m not backing down. Accessibility matters. Hosting a film that is not accessible does me no good, and apparently, unless you’re a blind Spanish speaker, Bardo won’t do you any good. Why spend all that money to limit your audience? What is the point? There are so many random titles I listed no one has ever heard of that are more accessible.

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