Club hosts deaf superhero film

Club hosts deaf superhero film
A crowd gathers and converses in American Sign Language outside Hamre Hall before the Deaf Awareness club shows the film “Sign Gene: The First Deaf Superheroes.” Photo by Xavier Carbonneau.

Augustana’s Deaf Awareness organization hosted a showing of  “Sign Gene: The First Deaf Superheroes,” an action movie directed by Emilio Insolera about deaf superheroes, in Hamre Hall on Feb. 9 for more than 50 people, including many students, faculty and members of the local Deaf community.

While the film had some issues with languages, aesthetics and vulgarity, the way it brought members of the Deaf community together made the evening a success.

While most of the audience had a good time at the event, some were shocked by the film’s graphic violence and vulgar language.

The film’s core concept is a genetic mutation giving some deaf individuals “sign power,” the ability to sign things into existence. For example, characters may sign “gun” and shoot invisible bullets out of their hands or sign “close” to shut a door.

The plot focuses on the conflict between deaf superhero and secret agent Tom Clerc (Emilio Insolera) and his evil brother Jux Clerc (Humberto Insolera) who wants to destroy everyone with sign power. Both characters are fictional descendants of the real Laurent Clerc, co-founder of the first school for the deaf in North America and one of the most important figures in American Deaf history.

“The premise is dope,” Magdalen Eberle, a junior sign language interpreting and theatre major, said. “There is an inherent superpower you have when you have access to sign language.”

Unfortunately, the bizarre mix of stock footage and shakily-shot action leaves the movie feeling disjointed and confusing at times. The use of six different languages is gimmicky, and oftentimes signing wasn’t even visible on screen. The movie’s visuals were also grating with excessive color grading and after-effects to emulate grainy film.

“I would’ve preferred it if it was shot a little less loudly,” Eberle said.

The most prevalent issue with the film was the intensity of its vulgarity. The movie’s multiple gory fights and excessive vulgar language caused some to walk out.

Julia Lemos, a sophomore sign language interpreting major and public relations officer for Augustana’s Deaf Awareness organization, said she suggested the film to the Deaf Awareness board after only seeing the trailer.

“Next time we will watch the movie before showing it to people,” Lemos said. “That is going to be a rule from now on.”

Thankfully, most attendees didn’t seem to take too much offense at the movie.

“People were very nice about it afterward,” said Lemos. “People thought it was kind of funny.”

Regardless of its issues, the film oozes passion and its noble intentions almost outweigh its major technical and aesthetic flaws. Sign Gene is messy but exciting and undeniably fun.

Much of the enjoyment people found at this event, though, was not from the film itself but from connecting with other members of the Deaf community.

“I love talking with people that always come to these events — regulars — and new people and students with different levels of signing experience,” Eberle said. “That is more valuable than the actual event from a community-building standpoint.”

Conversations in the crowd were so prevalent that the film started a full thirty minutes behind schedule. It took senior Gabriella Amick, president of Deaf Awareness, standing on a table and flashing the lights to turn everyone’s attention to the movie.

“We had so many people show up and everyone was socializing and getting to have good conversation, so I think that part went really well, and we definitely want to try to have those numbers at other events,” said Lemos.

Burst of Sign, a student-run Deaf Awareness variety show, will be held in the Hamre on April 21 and 22.