The Tribe review: No dialogue, no subtitles but plenty of talk | JDiff 2015

Set among the students of a school for the deaf, ‘The Tribe’ is lucid, gripping and bleakly powerful

Film Title: The Tribe

Director: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky

Starring: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 130 min

Mon, Mar 23, 2015, 01:00


Miroslav Slaboshpitsky certainly likes to make life difficult for himself. This extraordinary film, among the most daring we will see this year, is composed of hugely long takes, shot on 35mm, that take us down corridors, through labyrinths of trucks and on to tightly choreographed outbursts of furious action.

This is, however, not the most remarkable aspect of the film. Set among the students of a school for the deaf, The Tribe features no spoken dialogue and no subtitles. Delivered in Ukrainian sign language, it must surely be the most chatty film ever presented unmediated to audiences unfamiliar with the characters’ tongue.

The Tribe is, nonetheless, lucid, gripping and bleakly powerful throughout. It helps that we have a familiar story to hang on to. Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko) arrives at the school and soon discovers that the inmates use it as the base for a criminal empire: prostitution and thievery are their speciality. As in predecessors such as Alan Clarke’s Scum, the young hero gradually gains confidence and reaches for the levers of power.

Thick with political allegories, proudly unsentimental in its treatment of the disabled, The Tribe is a masterpiece of creative awkwardness. Be aware, however, that some scenes are very hard to watch.