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Deconstructing SG



Sign Gene: The First Deaf Superheroes by Emilio Insolera is the world's first film about deaf superheroes and is replete with coded references to a history and culture that most hearing people know nothing about.   


The film includes breathless, sign-language-fueled fight scenes that draw from martial arts flicks, alongside a gritty futurism that brings to mind sci-fi classics like Blade Runner. Insolera made Sign Gene on a mere $25,000, and the slender budget sometimes shows.


The Los Angeles Times praised the film’s sound design and said it energetically blended elements of “X-Men,” “The Da Vinci Code” and the James Bond films.


Other critics enjoyed the incorporation of deaf figures from history as much as the sci-fi element.  





The film opens with a warning "*Film not suitable to people with epilepsy disorders* 

Fast paced editing with vintage film stock

Video-editing is playful and stylistically experimental. It includes fast-paced stroboscopic screen action and video effects simulating the grainy, scratchy appearance of vintage film stock - at times a bit jarring like Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse.  


There is much use of fast forward, particularly in the action sequences, with some scenes jumping quickly from one to another and back again, which may leave the viewer feeling confused.


This may be a visual attempt to imply the disorientation experienced by deaf people in an aural world, a parallel to the sound design described by Insolera as mimicking “barriers of communication” and being a “metaphor for interruptions in communication we routinely experience.” 

Sound design

Only the Fast Forward scenes have their own sound design: these represent the artificial and often incomprehensible and irritating sound of the hearing aids that some deaf people experience while using it.



Deaf History

Content incredibly rich with several references to deaf culture and history. Makes reference to Laurent Clerc, Jean Massieu, Antonio Magarotto, George Veditz, Deaf President Now at Gallaudet University, Alexander Graham Bell, Milan Congress in 1880, Kojiro Sasaki, James Denison, to name a few. It is in other words a Deaf "Da Vinci Code”. Every figure is not clearly explained or introduced individually. Accademic knowledge or basic reserach about these themes  is recommended to understand the film. 

Deaf History 1/3

Agent Tom Clerc shares the surname of a famous figure in deaf history, Laurent Clerc, a deaf educator who brought sign language to the U.S. And​

Deaf History 1/3

Image 1: A victim leaves hand signs, one is for “A” and the another one is for “L”. Only later the agents find out that these are the initials in sign language for Abraham Lincoln: we see it present on Abraham Lincoln's Memorial Building. Sculpture itself was made by Daniel Chester. 


Brief background about Daniel Chester (1850-1931): the sculptor knew sign language since his son is deaf. He is the same sculptor who made the statue of Thomas Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell, the first deaf student in the US (both of them using sign language). The statue is nowadays placed on Gallaudet campus.  

Deaf History 1/3

Image 2: Image of Laurent Clerc. He is the grand-grand father of the leading character Tom Clerc. 

Deaf Culture

The film invited you to disconnect from the world of sound and immerse into the visual world. All it takes is affining your visual perception. 

Sign Language Literature

Like the spoken language, the visual language got its own literature. In “Sign Gene” Insolera presents the very basic “Classifier handshapes”/"Visual Vernacular" mixing it with some effects (Dragon eye’s fight scene). 

Sign Language Power 1/3

Sign Language Power 2/3

Sign Language Power 3/3

Sign Language Linguistics 1/2

Sign language linguistics is an accademici discipline not available everywhere except for a few universities. It is in other words, a visual language’s linguistics, a discipline that Insolera believes it should be taught in every school, especially during early age like when we learn any “sound-ly” spoken language. It is extremely fascinating, articulating and rich in its content. Sign language is a noble gift from God to the humanity.

Image 1: William Stokoe, father of ASL Linguistics.  A well known figure in the deaf community

Sign Language Linguistics 2/2

Image 2. Logo of the Quinpar Intelligence Agency. The star represents the "Five Parameters" which are the phonological elements that combine to form signs. 


Q.I.A. stands for QuinPar Intelligence Agency, and QuinPar refers to the five phonological components in sign language linguistics that form signs: handshape, movement, location, orientation, and non-manual signals. 


Fake deaf actors are not tolerated. In Sign Gene, all talents are deaf in real life. Real representation. 

For a better understanding about #DeafTalent, please click here.

#DeafTalent > Native sign language users 1/3

Speediness and smoothness present in the communication among native visual speakers (sign language communicators), correctness of accent, slangs, word choice, tone, facial expression,  hearing people knowing sign language (CODA) not present in films directed by hearing directors.

With "native sign language speakers" we refer those who use sign language since they were born. Not every deaf person was born using sign language. 

#DeafTalent > Native sign language users 2/3

Several deaf talents in Sign Gene, not only were born using sign language. They actually come from deaf families. To name a few:

Emilio Insolera

Carola Insolera

Hiroshi Vava

Ben Bahan

Susan Mather

Nobuyuki Motte

Danny Gong

Humberto Insolera

Erika Wakayama

Warren Trofimenhoff

David Rivera

Culturally speaking, certainly in the deaf community there are families that go back many, many generations, and that’s true. There are certain families that you could mention their surname and everybody in the deaf community knows about them. 

#DeafTalent > Native sign language users 3/3

Several talents in Sign Gene are also well know activists in the deaf community. To name a few:

Ben Bahan, Chair of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University

Susan Mather, professor of Sign Language Linguistics at Gallaudet University

Humberto Insolera, politician, former vice president of the European Union of the Deaf

Danny Gong, founder and professor of ASL at Deaf Japan

Summer Crider, Deaf Studies professor

Artistic expressions sign language related 1/3

Sign Gene logo (Shape of hands representing the double helix. Logo's design related to sign language). Check youtube video for a more detailed explanation 

Artistic expressions sign language related 2/3

Connecting the dots around Fuwa's beard. 

a. Fuwa's beard

b. His beard as become the person's sign name (Descriptive Name Sign "DNS" is often based on subject's appearance).

c. Fuwa's company's logo (based on the beard)



Artistic expressions sign language related 3/3

Ex 3. Helicopter scene. Eleven are the people standing next to the helicopter. Choice of the number (11) happens for a reason:  just with "1" on left hand and another "1" on right hand and moving it, that would be equal for the word “sign language” (Image B)

Artistic expressions

The numbers are associated with the first letters: I.G.G.O. (International Genetic Genealogy Organization),



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