Emilio Insolera's "Sign Gene" gave the world its first deaf superheroes. But after writing, directing, producing and starring in the film himself, you might argue that Insolera is the one with the superpowers.

And the filmmaker says he can thank a stint in Japan for helping him take advantage of his abilities. Insolera visited Japan a decade ago on vacation and was inspired to create his film, which centers on a genetic mutation that causes people who are deaf to develop powers like shooting invisible bullets from their fingers and opening locked doors with their minds.

"Creatively, it all started with Japan," Insolera tells The Japan Times. "My first impression was that I had stumbled into the future, but as a linguist I was also instantly fascinated with Japanese and how it has a relationship with sign language. Kanji are usually concepts or ideas and then hiragana acts as a bridge for communication It's the same with sign language: We use fingerspelling (spelling out the alphabet with your hands) between our conceptual signs."