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By Brent Davidson
12th July 2015

It isn't often that you're told your are a brave audience for watching a film. Upon first thoughts, i was convinced that this was a braveness in the face of 'The Tribe' being entirely in sign language, without subtitles. What unfolded was something that has left a lasting impression since. Scar is a harsh word, but it is probably the word that comes the closest to how to describe how you feel after watching 'The Tribe.'

Following the new kid at a boarding school for the deaf, we are taken into a world of institutionalised crime and hierarchy. Working his way through this system, he eventually falls in love with one of the girls he is acting as pimp for and really it doesn't get much better for him.

First things first - I love the brave choice to use Ukrainian Sign Language as the principal language of the film, also to not circumvent the expressive nature of the language with subtitles. While it does take those not accustomed to the language a while to adjust, I doubt someone with no ability with sign at all would be affected or unable to follow the bleak storyline. It's the lack of focus on the means of communication that make it so much less a film about "deafness" and more about the criminal underworld of this school. That said though, it does provide many and often times harrowing insights into deaf culture and everyday life - it might not have been the intention but this is educational in itself.


This film is confronting - with a capital C. There is no shying away from any of the nitty and gritty. With director and writer Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, you see it all: the sex, the drugs, the violence. All are in full focus and with unavoidable realism. I have to admit, after a certain scene (one which still haunts me) a woman sitting in my row promptly passed out. Towards the last fifteen minutes, about a quarter of the audience left the cinema; this wasn't at your regular blockbuster cinema audience either, this was at the Australian Centre for Moving Image and an audience with a tolerance for the more left-of-centre films. Hopefully that gives you a little idea of the intensity of 'The Tribe'.

This film is confronting. There is no shying away from any of the nitty and gritty.

A triumph of Myroslav's direction is his approach to the cast, who consist primarily of first-time actors. Their performances have such clarity and depth they put some of their more experienced contemporaries to shame, acting out some things that (lets be honest) no one should ever really have to act out. It may also seem like an odd thing to say about a film where the cast is primarily deaf, but the sound design of 'The Tribe' is as intense and brooding as the rest of the film, adding an almost otherworldly level to those who can hear what they are watching.

Not for the faint-hearted, 'The Tribe' is a film that is an experience in itself. That experience is likely to stay with you well beyond the two-hour runtime. Fortune favours the brave, so why not get your hands dirty?

Catch 'The Tribe' with limited screenings at ACMI.

RELEASE DATE: 14/07/2015
RUN TIME: 2h 6m
CAST: Grigoriy Fesenko
Yana Novikova
Rosa Babiy
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
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