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


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.

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.


‘Sign Gene’

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

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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