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The Tribe (Plemya) Movie Review

Title: The Tribe (Plemya)

Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy

Starring: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy, Ivan Tishko, Alexander Osadchiy, Alexander Sidelnikov, Sasha Rusakov, Denis Gruba, Dania Bykobiy, Lenia Pisanenko, Alexander Panivan, Kirill Koshik, Marina Panivan, Tatiana Radchenko, Ludmila Rudenko.

The use of the spoken word mediates. Sound, besides all the beauty that it encompasses, alerts for danger. What would happen in a deaf-mute community driven by criminality, when the uprise of passions took over? Slaboshpytskiy tries to answer this question with his film ‘The Tribe.’

Plemya (the original title of the movie) is set somewhere in Ukraine. Sergey is an adolescent boy who enters a specialised boarding school for the deaf. Alone in this new and unfamiliar place, he must find his way through the school’s hierarchy. He instantly encounters the tribe, a student gang dealing in crime and prostitution and after passing their hazing rituals and being inducted into the group, he takes part in several robberies and begins to work his way up the chain of command to become pimp-protector for two of the girls. Finding himself in love with one of them, Sergey ultimately breaks all the unwritten rules of the tribe with tragic consequences.

The entire 130 minute narrative progresses with sign language, no subtitles, nor soundtrack. There are some ambiance sounds that seem to be to muffled, almost to allow the audience to fully engage with the dumb-deaf condition. The harrowing drama is utterly enthralling. Every act, whether it’s sexual, explorative or of physical abuse is shown in every minute detail; the camera never withdraws. The line between voyeurism and cinéma vérité is thin, but the movie actually comes across as an unusual homage to the silent era. This was the intent of the director, who managed to weave around it a variety of important topics such as the uptick of violence in Ukraine and the criminal underworld within academic institutions.

No member of the cast was a professional actor, but all were truly deaf-mute. The actors are incredibly well choreographed in using their entire body, to substitute the tone of an absent voice and express enragement, joy, fear and perseverance.

The violent denouement of desperate impulses, speaks far louder than words and is sure to inspire an array of reactions, speechlessness included – to be in line with the wordless film. ‘The Tribe’ is certainly an audacious coup de cinema that marks a stunning writing-directing debut for Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy.

Technical: B

Acting: A+

Story: B

Overall: B+

Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi is a storyteller, who speaks and writes fluently in English, Italian, French and Spanish. She is member of the Italian Association of Journalists and of the Foreign Press in New York City. She studied in a British school in Milan, from nursery to high school, after which she graduated in Political Sciences, got a Masters in screen-writing and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles.

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