By Jeff Richards
If you perchance follow the #DeafSuperheroes tag on your social media channel of choice, then you probably already know about “Sign Gene.”
On the other hand, if this is the first time you’ve seen the words “sign gene,” you’re interested in inventive, unique film and you have a predilection for superhero stories — then you’ll need to get over to the Italian Cultural Institute Tokyo on Friday. There you will be able to watch something truly original: the world’s first film about deaf superheroes and the powers instilled in them by their use of sign language.
Filmed in the U.S., Japan and Italy, “Sign Gene” is a 2017 superhero film written, produced, directed and starring Emilio Insolera who plays a deaf agent from New York City sent to Japan to investigate crimes believed to have been committed by Japanese deaf mutants.
Insolera’s character, Tom Clerc, the carrier of SGx29 — a genetic mutation that enables him to create supernatural powers through the use of sign language — is sent to Japan to investigate the mysterious crimes committed by Japanese deaf mutants.
While encompassing themes and action of the genre that you would find in the X-Men and James Bond franchises, it also delves into the element of historical figures of the deaf community such as Laurent Clerc and Alexander Graham Bell. It also features grainy, stylistic choices with quick and jittery editing and an enveloping sound design that enhances the experience.
As an original superhero movie it breaks ground, but it is also probably the first movie released internationally that features the use of six languages: American sign language, Japanese sign language, Italian sign language, English, Japanese and Italian.
Most of the writing and pre-production was done in Japan prior to filming (and plenty of that, as well).
In a conversation with Japan Today, Insolera says: “Just […] to get an idea: I have developed the script, created a team and produced this feature while I was residing in Japan. ‘Sign Gene’ was born in Japan, [the] rest is history.”
“Sign Gene” was presented at the 71st Cannes Film Festival and will be screened in cinemas across Japan this November.
Specific dates will be announced soon. Prior to Friday’s screening at the Italian Cultural Institute Tokyo with the support of Alfa Romeo Japan, Insolera will be in attendance to provide some background on the film and its making (in Japanese sign language with a Japanese interpreter) from 5 p.m. Joining him will be cast members Hiroshi Vava, Carola Insolera, Nobuyuki Motte, Warren Trofimenhoff and others.
Running time of the film is 68 minutes.