The Tribe, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s devastating ensemble piece, is told entirely in Ukrainian sign language, with no dialogue and no subtitles. Rather than being intimidating or impenetrable, this remarkable film clues viewers in on how to watch it almost immediately, relying on context, body language and incident.
Taking place in a school for the deaf and beginning with the point of view of new kid Sergey (Grigory Fesenko), what one might think is going to be a tender story of teenage adjustment soon becomes a chronicle of a vicious underground gang, and the passions and loyalties within. Unfolding as a series of ever-graver surprise turns rendered in haunting long takes, The Tribe recalls such classic school-kid shockers as Lord of the Flies and Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. Slaboshpytskiy has made a film with a unique hook but one that doesn’t rely on gimmickry – underneath its method is a substantive emotional compendium that’s passionately, hypnotically shattering. [Ian Mantgani]