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

Audience feedback after the film: Rating: ★★★☆☆  (3.08 from 26 responses)

  • ‘Excellent’: 3 votes[toggle]
    • Weird and compelling. The ending was brilliant – especially for Bunzo
    • A dark comedy the Coen Brothers would be proud of.[/toggle]
  • ‘Very Good’: 7 votes [toggle]
    • Sad commentary on the power of belief over reality – leading to madness. At the start of the scene on the frozen lake (before Kumiko’s desperate attempt to break through the ice) I was struck by the similarities with early Herzog (Aguirre, Stroszek, Heart of Glass)
    • The borders between reason, technology, art and madness can be pretty blurred. Impressive use of sound design – and did I detect a certain affection for Kubrik?
    • Just a film – a ‘fake’, but made me feel cold!
    • Great music and cinematography. Central performance was lovely
    • The idea of the story – excellent, but some ideas poor! Continuity curious – small stream running water when the lake was deeply frozen (too frozen to break the ice to retrieve “treasure” and yet some greenish grass not covered with snow under trees…)? But dreamlike ending excellent – she had a lot of energy, seemingly, after 5 days without food!
    • Entertaining, amusing in parts, & poignant in others. Fortunately, I saw Fargo for the first time the other day! [/toggle]
  • ‘Good’: 8 votes [toggle]
    • Sympathetic portrayal of the isolation of mental illness, the impossibility of conforming to societal norms; especially for a young woman. … and the unhelpful kindness of strangers. Was getting anxious about how it would end & disappointed by the fantasy and her newly-acquired serene beauty, complete with lipstick.
    • Visually good but not entirely satisfying
    • Visually beautiful and emotionally resonant but the ending seemed disjointed
    • Unusual and enjoyable. What is it saying about Japanese society?
    • Slow moving and sparse dialogue, and yet quietly beguiling and affecting … very powerful soundtrack!
    • Japanese ‘Psycho’?! What’s real and what’s not? Thank goodness Bunzo could be relied upon
    • As long as you could suspend disbelief – enjoyed it.
    • Sadly, not as good as expected. Pacing too slow & loud music doesn’t increase the tension! [/toggle]
  • ‘Satisfactory’: 3 votes [toggle]
    • Another take on Care in the Community
    • Like most things Japanese, I thought it strange. Very sub-Coenesque
    • It was OK – just! [/toggle]
  • ‘Poor’: 4 votes [toggle]
    • Quirky films can’t get by on quirkiness alone. It didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do do where it was going.
    • Cruel picture of mental illness. A number of stock “odd” characters in the US – very subCoen Brothers
    • Good soundtrack, but “not my tempo” 🙂
    • Interesting concept, poor ending and too long. Bunzo the rabbit was the best actor… [/toggle]
  • + 1 comment submitted without a grading [toggle]
    • Japanese films can’t miss. Wonderfully different. [/toggle]

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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” page 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)

Silent majority … The TribeSelected UK reviews

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