Review of The Tribe (Plemya) at the Sarasota Film Festival #SFF2015

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By: Rodger Skidmore

This Ukrainian entry for the festival was not well attended (theater less than half full) with no second showing scheduled. The question is, if they did schedule another, would anyone come – or, based upon the program description, did everyone who possibly might wanted to see it already do so?

Was the movie well made, story compelling, location and scenery correct, acting perfectly real, even with no dialogue or sub-titles was it understandable? Yes.

Did I enjoy the film – as in, did it make me happy? No

Was it a good film? Yes

Were the things in the film, that I did not enjoy seeing, necessary? Yes

Do I want to see it again? No, but thanks for asking.

Am I glad that I saw it? I would have to say yes.

To rehash your memory, the film is about a young Ukrainian boy who arrives at a boarding school for the deaf and dumb. He falls in love with a prostitute and falls afoul of the rules of _________. Of whom? In situations like these, bureaucracies with no money for proper administration or oversight, anyone who is stronger or more well connected than you gets to make the rules. For the new boy, this is everyone. The school, the teachers, the mafia boys, the bully boys – everyone.

He arrives in bleak winter with buildings covered in graffiti and with the ground covered with leaves beneath the barren trees. There is only the low distant noise from the street – the sounds from the school are muted – mostly shuffling feet. The boy, Sergy (his name was found by googling the film as no one speaks his name, that you can understand, in the film) is quickly indoctrinated into the ways of the others. It is either fall in line or be one of the fallen. During the day, when the younger children run through the playground or play ball, the only sounds you hear are the feet hitting the pavement and the ball bouncing. 

Twenty minutes into the film you hear the first sound coming from someones mouth – that of the boy retching, after having chugged something Ukrainian – a clear liquid – from a bottle that he and some others had stolen. Interesting to watch the gang stalk someone. They follow closely behind the victim and discuss who will hit him first. He can’t hear their feet and their hands make no sounds as they talk.

What happens after this, and a lot happens, will not be discussed here. When I got home I asked my wife if, had she seen the film, which she would have not liked the most, the ____, the ________ without ___________ or the ____ __ ____ _______.  She did not think she would have liked any of it. 

The film was the most graphic that I’ve seen. It was about a system of living, and a system of reacting to that kind of living, that I hope to never have to experience. The boy did not enjoy it either. Neither did anyone else in the film. There were small pleasures that accrued to those in power, but nothing of lasting value, as I doubt that anyone had a lasting feeling of self-worth. 

The film was in color but, because of the local and time of year, it seemed like black and white and felt like black and gray. 

Miroslav Slaboshpitsky both wrote and directed the film. He crafted the vision and probably was the only one who could have made the film as successfully as he did. All of the actors were superb and everything was a bit too real. When it was over I told myself, as I told my granddaughter after the father died in How To Train Your Dragon Two, it was just a story. The problem, of course, is that all the bits and pieces of this story are, somewhere, really true.

If you do see it, try to see it in a theater as, if you see it on your TV or computer, you might be seeing it alone and that would not be a good thing. If you can take this kind of film, I would recommend it. If you can’t, don’t.


For a description of every film’s plot, as well as show times, please go to:

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A shy, teenage boy enters a boarding school for the deaf and in order to survive he gets involved with a Mafiosi-like group — the Tribe. His love for one of the female prostitutes unwillingly leads him to break all the unwritten rules within the Tribe’s hierarchy. Filmed completely in Russian Sign Language, this ground-breaking film does not contain any auditory language or subtitles, yet the visuals tell you everything you need to know about the story. This film won the Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Tribe (Plemya)
Feature | 132 Min
Film Info
Genre: Narrative
English Title: The Tribe
Original Title: Plemya
Category: Narrative Feature
Release Year: 2014
Runtime: 132 minutes
Type of Film: Narrative Feature
Production Country: Ukraine
Original Language: Sign Language
Cast/Crew Info
Cast: Grigory Fesenko
Yana Novikova
Rosa Babiy
Alexander Dsiadevich
Alexander Osadchiy
Ivan Tishko
Alexander Sidelnikov
Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Produced By: Valentin Vasyanovych
Iya Myslytska
Screenwriter: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Cinematography: Valentin Vasyanovych
Editing By: Valentin Vasyanovych
Production Design by: Vlad Odudenko
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