The Tribe Review: Silent Brutality

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Let’s get one thing out of the way, The Tribe isn’t an experiment on making a sign language film work. Films are produced in all languages across the world, why should sign be any different? What’s experimental is that the film trusts its audience to pay attention closely enough to pick up on the story despite most audiences, besides those who know Ukranian Sign Language, having no idea what the characters are saying.

It mostly works, as the actors are more than capable of using the language to express their emotions vividly. But there are a few scenes that drag along simply because two characters are talking and there’s no translation. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy makes sure to quickly fill us in or at least bring the tension to a boiling point, but there are moments of tediousness.

But, like any film, it is as strong as its story and execution. The Tribe revolves around a young man arriving at a boarding school for the deaf, where he then attempts to ascend the hierarchy by helping out with the school’s prostitution ring. You know, typical schoolyard stuff.

This is a dark tale of corruption and brutality that never holds back and will have even the least squeamish attendees hiding in the person next to them. The Tribe is frequently disturbing, leaving nothing to the imagination. It’s both a strength and a weakness, the former in simply getting us to feel something powerful, the latter being the few moments where the director doesn’t rely on its audience to put the pieces together.

Still, this is an effective thriller with probably the best use of sound, in all of its absence, of any film this year. If you can forgive some overlong stretches of tension-building and the occasional conflicting filmmaking technique, The Tribe is a very good film. One you probably haven’t seen anything like before. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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