In THE TRIBE we’re propelled head-first in a boarding school for young deaf and mute people, the tribe of the title, in which violence, trafficking and prostitution are commonplace. For the over two hours of the film’s length there’s not a single line of dialogue or caption, just the power of cinema to induce raw emotion through ruthless framing shots that spare us nothing and zeroes in on actors who are apparently completely fearless. Is it a Ukrainian thing? You know, they always seem a little distant, and a little fearless. Whatever it is, Ukrainians make awesome cinema.
Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko; if you’ve never heard of him, don’t fret) is the latest arrival at a Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf and mute. Upon arriving he gets properly bullied by other students, fights back and is inducted into the gang. Robberies, pimping and various shake-downs ensue until he becomes enamored with Anna, a fellow student. The way scenes of this hell on earth were filmed makes the film’s strength. When DP Valentin Vasyanovych hones in on his actors, we’re shown them from behind, which makes us patently aware of how vulnerable a deaf person is to things they can’t see. The point being made is driven home in a tragicomic scene at the local truck stop, where the school gang bring the girls for nightly prostitution deals.
The actors, nonprofessionals all, add to the raw power of TRIBE. Many of them enduring difficult scenes most people would not think of, all in the glorious name of cinema. THE TRIBE is hard to watch but it strikes at the mind sharp and deep and will probably live there for some time.
Presented at Critics’ Week during the Cannes Festival in 2014. Film was produced by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, also. TRIBE earned Critics’ Week’s Grand Prix award.
THE TRIBE comes out June 17th, 2015.