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Review: Inventive ‘Sign Gene’ chronicles derring-do of first deaf superheroes

(L-R) - Carola Insolera and Emilio Insolera in a scene from “Sign Gene.” Credit: Pluin Productions
Carola Insolera and Emilio Insolera in the movie “Sign Gene.”
(Pluin Productions)

One wouldn’t normally expect to find such dazzling sound design in a production conceived and directed by a deaf filmmaker, but that’s just one of the unexpected surprises surrounding Emilio Insolera’s “Sign Gene.”

Energetically blending elements of “X-Men,” “The Da Vinci Code,” 007 and martial arts wuxia while giving shout-outs to such historical deaf community figures as Laurent Clerc, Alexander Graham Bell and Jean Massieu, the lively experimental sci-fi film, shot in the U.S., Japan and Italy, is an origins story about the “first generation of deaf superheroes.”

As Japanese police investigate a series of murders in which the victims have apparently been shot with invisible bullets, the perpetrator is ultimately discovered to possess a genetic mutation triggered by “an evolutionary response to centuries of social and linguistic oppression.”

What follows is a fast-paced potpourri of stock footage combined with sign-language and stroboscopic action sequences performed by a deaf cast, video effects simulating grainy, scratchy film stock and that aforementioned all-enveloping sound mix, with an end result that proves as wildly inventive as it is empowering.

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Given how much stuff Insolera, who also stars as an intelligence agency operative, manages to cram into the 68-minute running time, it would be intriguing to see what this fresh, unique filmmaking voice could do armed with a more extensive canvas and matching budget.

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‘Sign Gene’

In English, Japanese, Italian, American Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language and Italian Sign Language with English subtitles

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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