The Tribe  : Love & hatred don’t need translation
The Tribe (Plemya) is an unflinching,visceral & bold story of culture of deaf teenagers, which is told entirely in non penetrable untranslated Ukrainian sign language. This unpleasantly dark tale of deaf teenage seems to set in the real world, supported by non-professional actors add to the grittiness and observational realistic tone to it , and it offers much more than usual teenage school drama. Focal point of ‘The Tribe’ is a new student, ‘Serhiy’, who arrives on an opening day ceremony in courtyard of boarding school for deaf teenagers. Film takes a deep look into culture of deaf students who moonlight as hooligans and run prostitution business. Be warned, The Tribe is highly violent in expression and sexually charged!
The Tribe opens with the warning that no subtitles are provided for the film, and initially it gets tad difficult to understand what the heck is going on. The movie does not use sign language as a gimmick, it certainly does not talk vaguely throughout. It tries to challenge its audiences to do away with oral communication, put us in the most uncomfortable zone of sign language and asks us to decipher the details,step by step. As a result, actions and specifically expressions plays pivotal role, and all the actors have done stupendous performance being actual deaf and non professionals in film field.Yes, some “dialogue” scenes might have extra shades of meaning if you knew precisely what the hands were saying, but rarely is the main story in any way incomprehensible – this is a movie that will and should be used in cinema schools as a master class in how film is a visual medium.
As Serhiy learns about the activities in the school, he is magnetically more drawn towards the bunch of classmates who are involved in illegal activities, like robbing, prostitution and violent fights. Serhiy is shy, little less ‘expressive’ but minute observant who passes his ritual test of physical endurance conducted by the tribe to join them. The problem starts when Serhiy is appointed as a pimp for two girls and he starts developing feeling for one of them. If there is anything that does not work, or I should say that film is ‘missing’ is development of other characters like the girl with whom Serhiy falls in love. Though she is given one of the most horrific scene of abortion done in the backstreet. That is the only time, you could hear human voice, and that too her weeping. Then the most brutal climax you will ever witness.
Director Slaboshpitsky has handled the film very sensibly and captured the raw and naked emotions of teenagers. He never shy to take away camera from any incident. Camera seems to be following the characters wherever they go, like the scene of two girls getting ready in the van, or torture scene, or the abortion scene, or the sex scene. It captures from start to end, giving very raw footage that is horrific and indigestible for some part. But that is what he really wanted to achieve. Slaboshpitsky succeeds in having full attention to emotions, psyche and actions of the character than their dialogues. Probably, it acts a mirror to what actually miss while communicating orally. Though there is no sound in the film, still it makes deafening impact. It is one of its kind, DO NOT MISS IT.