Thursday, 7th April: The Tribe (18)

Original title: ‘Plemya’

Ukraine  –  Crime, Drama  –  Year: 2014  –  Running time: 132 min

Audience response after showing this film:
Rating: ★★★½☆ (3.67 from 14 responses)

  • ‘Excellent’: 1 vote
  • ‘Very Good’: 4 votes
  • ‘Good’: 4 votes
  • ‘Satisfactory’: 0 votes
  • ‘Poor’: 0 vote
  • + 5 comments submitted without a grade

Read the comments here or join our discussion to continue the debate

The TribeSynopsis:

The cast of this innovative debut film from Slaboshpitsky are young, deaf actors. There is only sign language. The setting is a boarding school for the deaf. New arrival Sergey is quickly drawn into a world of institutionalised theft and prostitution, where he makes a grievous error: he falls in love. There are explicit scenes of both sex and violence, but the film is fiercely original, audacious, brilliantly executed and has received considerable critical acclaim.

Pretty much every single thing about The Tribe is impressive.
Adam Nayman (Sight and Sound)

DirectorMiroslav Slaboshpitsky
Nuclear Waste (short) / Deafness (short) / Diagnosis (short)
Writer: Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Hryhoriy Fesenko          – Sergey
Yana Novikova              – Anya
Rosa Babiy                    – Svetka
(for full cast list, please see “The Tribe” in IMDB

CFC Film Notes:                                        (Click here for print version)

There tends be a lot of hyperbole tossed around about certain types of movies being a groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind experience, but that statement actually rings true for Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy‘s debut feature film The Tribe. Devoid of any spoken words, music, voice-over or even subtitles, the film is communicated through sign language and all the characters are deaf. This provides a unique challenge for any audience member not versed with how to sign, as the filmmaker provides no direct explanation of what characters are actually saying. While this may initially seem daunting, a viewer’s patience and keen observation is rewarded by a haunting cinematic voyage that truly is unlike anything else one is bound to witness in a theatre this year.


Set in a specialized boarding school for young deaf adolescents, the singular lens focuses primarily on Sergey, a down-on-his-luck teenager seemingly abandoned by his family and left to find refuge in an environment more conducive for the handicapped. Upon arriving to the austere institution, the setting seems oddly welcoming, with students and teachers participating in some type of celebratory ceremony. However, as soon as Sergey attempts to get comfortable in his dormitory, the hierarchy of the so-called ‘tribe’ of students quickly becomes apparent, as he is thrust into a twisted version of survival of the fittest.

First, the school is run by a gang of thuggish students who bully those weaker than them, sometimes quite violently. Their despicable actions are facilitated by a group of corrupt teachers who in turn take advantage of these students, from having them smuggle in contraband to pimping out underage girls to have sex with weary truck drivers late at night, ultimately profiting from their misery. As Sergey struggles to move up the ranks of this sordid teenage mafia, he falls in love with one of the girls, Anya, who is being used as a prostitute. Their love affair is captured vividly and Slaboshpytskiy is not shy about allowing his actors to bare their souls in order to achieve a richer, more complex vision of their warped modern romance.

Stylistically, the film is shot in stunning, unbroken long takes reminiscent of Cristian Mungiu, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and even Bela Tarr (minus the black and white). While there is a formality to this type of cinema, the mise-en-scène feels stripped down and more apropos to a gritty crime film, akin to something like Jacques Audiard’s The Prophet. Yet the scope and ambition of the mild-mannered narrative propels it to something more grandiose like The Godfather. Keep in mind that with all this going on, the film still demands one’s utmost attention if there’s hope to glean any of the subtleties and nuance of what is actually happening, thus making the emotional investment in the characters that more potent. As the film spirals to its horrific climax, the performances of these young actors are a marvel to witness, channelling painful truths of Ukrainian culture. Easily the most intense movie experience of the year, The Tribe is an unsettling examination of how the oppressed can become the oppressor.
       (extract from ‘Fantastic Fest 2014 Review (Raffi Asdourian)’, edited by Bob Foale)

We would love to hear your views on this film.  Please join our debate here.

Silent majority … The TribeSelected UK reviews

Daily Telegraph (Mike McCahill)
New Statesman (Ryan Gilbey)

Leave a Reply