Mastering sign language in ‘Sign Painters’

Film “Sign Painters” reveals some colorful characters.
Film “Sign Painters” reveals some colorful characters.

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The title of “Sign Painters” tells you exactly what this documentary’s about. Yet it’s also highly misleading. A movie with a title like that – about a subject like that – must be pretty drab, right? Not hardly. “Sign Painters,” which has been put together with equal parts affection and skill by directors Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, is fresh and passionate and unexpected.

The format couldn’t be simpler. Thirty or so sign painters – from Seattle to Coralville, Iowa, Seattle to Mazeppa, Minn. (in other words, all over) – talk about what they do and demonstrate how it’s done. These guys, and nearly all are male, are smart and funny and full of beans. They’re at once disarmingly practical and full of artistic élan.

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