Home Entertainment Film Festivals The Inaugural SignLight International Film Festival Is a Catalyst For Change

The Inaugural SignLight International Film Festival Is a Catalyst For Change


Showcasing the Global Community of Deaf Filmmakers for the First Time Ever, April 16-20

Hollywood A-listers are turned out to support the inaugural SignLight International Film Festival (SIFF), where, for the first time, seasoned Deaf filmmakers and up-and-coming Deaf creatives from around the world will showcase their work in the heart of the entertainment industry, at a time when studios are seeking more diverse talent and authentic storytelling.

CJ Jones

Launched by award-winning actor-director-producer CJ Jones, SIFF offers a panoply of best practices and models of success to the industry and Deaf community alike, easing the way for studios and filmmakers to fulfill their visions of inclusion and access, a business imperative in today’s industry. Jones helms the five-day festival under the banner of SignLight Inc., the non-profit, entertainment career-training subsidiary of his production company SignWorld Studios.

Aligning with Jones to galvanize Hollywood through the star-studded festival are such luminaries as Troy Kotsur, Deanne Bray, Marlee Matlin, Millicent SimmondsRosie O’DonnellAndreas DejaShoshanna Stern, Nyle DiMarcoShaylee Mansfield, Keivonn WoodardCraig Mazin and more. The event will also feature a performance by American Sign Language (ASL) hip-hop star Matt Maxey aka Deafinitely Dope.

The festival will wrap with a star-studded, red carpet and gala awards ceremony. In addition to open-caption screenings, SIFF’s programming tracks—addressing the best approaches of the industry behind and in front of the camera and sharing models of success—include presentations; pitch sessions, panels; workshops; roundtables; exhibition booths; VIP receptions; industry networking; live performances by Deaf dancers, song/Sign performers; and family activities.

SIFF has been made possible by the generous support from sponsors Sony Pictures EntertainmentThe Ford Foundation; Sorenson Communications, Easterseals Southern CaliforniaNBCU LAUNCH (NBCUniversal)HBOGallaudet University; and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Said Jones, “Too often, hearing people misappropriate the stories and roles of people who are Deaf, only to seek out their assistance to help them create a facsimile of their lives. Authentic representation requires authentic participation behind as well as in front of the camera. Our festival offers the industry a ‘how-to manual’ that illustrates models of successful Deaf/hearing creative collaborations, best practices, innovative Deaf/hearing communications solutions, and a contact roster of the best Deaf talent in the world.”

Gemini Crown Tech All In One Production Management
Gemini Crown Tech
All-In-One Production Management

SIFF, which has drawn attendees from around the world and will be convened bi-annually, received 195 submissions from 43 countries from which 62 Deaf filmmaker/actor nominations and 32 films were selected in 13 competitive categories: Best Feature Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Short Film, Best Feature Documentary, Best Short Documentary, Best TV Episodic, Best Animation and Best Student Film. Plus a Special Merit award.

Sorenson Communications, a global telecommunications company serving Deaf communities around the world, will provide on-demand interpreter services for personal devices.

According to the National Deaf Center, 3.6% of the U.S. population, or 11 million people, are Deaf or have significant hearing difficulty. Worldwide, there are 466 million people with disabling hearing loss (World Health Organization), 70 million of whom use one or more of 200+ Sign Languages (World Federation of the Deaf).  A 2022 study, conducted by a National Research Group in partnership with Deaf Theatre West, found that “63% of Deaf consumers say movies and shows that feature Deaf characters use negative images of the community,” while “76% of Deaf people believe that the way their community is portrayed in fiction influences how they are perceived in daily life, shaping attitudes and calcifying prejudices.”


BSL Zone; Cal State Long Beach; Cal State Northridge; College of the Canyons; CSD Riverside; Deaf Kids Code; Easterseals Disability Film Challenge; El Camino College; Film Festival Alliance; Film Independent; Front Row Films; Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness; International Documentary Association; The Jim Henson Company; Lights! Camera! Access!; Nickelodeon; Pierce College; Pro Bono ASL; ReelAbilities Film Festival; Women in Animation; The Writers Guild Foundation.

About SignLight Inc. & SignWorld Studios:

SignLight Inc. will launch the inaugural SignLight International Film Festival—the world’s largest gathering of film and television talent who are Deaf and hard of hearing—in Hollywood in April 2024. SignLight is the non-profit arm of SignWorld Studios (SWS). This Deaf-owned-and-operated production company strives to reach out to the world’s 466 million people Deaf and hard-of-hearing community members and their friends, providing Sign Language entertainment programming for Deaf and hearing people alike, including native languages other than ASL. It is the mission of SWS to create innovative and entertaining Sign Language programming accessible to viewers across the demographic spectrum and around the world. SWS was founded in 2020 by award-winning actor-writer-producer and Deaf activist CJ Jones (Avatar: The Way of Water, CODA, Baby Driver). In addition to his high-profile roles on stage, TV, and in film, Jones created the fictional, underwater Na’vi Sign Language for James Cameron’s second Avatar film and will soon begin work on the third. Jones is one of seven children born to Deaf parents. He lost his hearing at the age of 7 due to spinal meningitis. 

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