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The Tribe (2014)

The Tribe (2014)

No subtitles, no translation, just Ukranian sign language and a downward spiral into violence

8.0

Movie

Netherlands, Ukraine
No language, Ukrainian, Ukrainian Sign Language
Crime, Drama
2014
MYROSLAV SLABOSHPYTSKIY, MYROSLAV SLABOSHPYTSKYI
Alexander Panivan, Grygoriy Fesenko, Hryhoriy Fesenko
130 min

What it's about

Deaf-mute Sergey enters a specialized boarding school for the deaf-and-dumb. In navigating through the school's hierarchy, he encounters a corrupt underbelly of criminality, known as The Tribe. By participating in several robberies, he gets propelled higher into the organization, when he meets one of the Chief’s concubines Anya, and unwittingly breaks all the unwritten rules of the group.

The take

This teenage crime drama contains enough grit to stand on its own, but The Tribe’s real hook is in the way it’s told: entirely in Ukrainian sign language, without subtitles. Set in a boarding school for deaf students, new arrival Sergei must contend with an institution that’s run like a gang. His journey through the ranks is extremely violent and graphic, including unflinching depictions of rape and a back-alley abortion that lingers long in the mind.

Its unpleasantness will be a barrier for some, but for the curious, it’s an oddly balletic film. Among the misery, actors communicate the entire story via body language. Emphatic dialogue delivery conveys the mood of each scene (which often changes for the worse), and the characters’ actions speak loud and clear. Narratively it breaks little ground, and its darkness can’t be overstated, but there’s grace to its reliance on everything but words to tell its story. A film you won’t stop thinking about.

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