THE TRIBE (Ukraine/The Netherlands/Club/132mins)
Directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky. Starring Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskly, Ivan Tishko, Alexander Oadchiy, Alexander Sidelnikov, Alexander Panivan.
t’s Kiev, present day, and Sergey (Fesenko) quickly becomes a member of a student gang when he arrives at a boarding school for deaf kids. Leader of the gang is the woodwork teacher, who orchestratest the petty theft, prostitution, and whatever else will bring in some money. Sergey takes a leap up the ranks when one of the gang’s pimps is killed in an accident, taking over the deceased’s prostitutes – including Anna (Novikova), whom Sergey soon falls in love with. Despite the fact that she’s dating someone else, the two begin an affair, with Sergey determined that the two of them will break free and run away together. But, it may not be so easy…
THE VERDICT: A daring debut from young Ukranian filmmaker Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, THE TRIBE has a main cast who only speak in Ukranian sign language, and yet there are no subtitles, whilst the lenght of the single-shot takes here would have even David Lean tapping his watch. Right from the start, you know you’re watching art here. Thankfully, The Tribe also boasts a fine kick-ass script. Then again, it would have to, right?
Not that The Tribe is an easy watch. There’s an air of Haneke here, of Kubrick at his most clinical, with the masterful set pieces sometimes merely adding to the sense of voyeurism and even culpability, as the brutal beatings and sexual bullying unfold in the best possible taste, and light.
Review by Paul Byrne

The Tribe
Review by Paul Byrne
  • filmbuff2011

    Ukrainian film The Tribe is definitely an acquired taste. The winner of three awards at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s quite unlike anything else seen in a cinema before. But that doesn’t necessarily make it must-see viewing. There’s not much of a plot to speak of, but it basically involves a deaf teenager moving into a new boarding school. He quickly becomes initiated into the class structure and gang system there, at first being beaten and then humiliated. That’s all part of the initiation though, as he gradually becomes a fully paid-up member. Meanwhile, two teenage girls in the school prostitute themselves to truck drivers with tragic consequences… If you know sign language, then this could be the best film ever made to you. If not, be warned – the entire film is in sign language, with no dialogue, sub-titles or voice-over. That makes for frustrating viewing, but director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s reasoning soon becomes obvious. He’s forcing the viewer to engage the senses and translate the actions of his characters through their body language. It’s tricky at first, but careful observation of the characters yields some results. The young performers are engaging, all coiled anger and misguided youth. This must be the least attentive boarding school in history – there seems to be no adult supervision, so the teenagers run wild. This leads to some challenging scenes – Slaboshpitsky pulls no punches here. There’s as an excruciatingly long, painful and distressing abortion scene for one character, but the aftermath doesn’t ring true. She’s back to normal a few hours later, as if nothing happened. As the film stretches past the 90-minute mark and then well into 2 hours, it becomes increasingly tiring and tedious, to the point where several watch checks were required. Had Slaboshpitsky done judicious editing, he might have made this a slightly more digestible film. Critics have been raving about The Tribe, but it left this reviewer very bored and cold. See it if you dare, but don’t take that as a recommendation. **