Combustible Celluloid
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With: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy, Ivan Tishko, Alexander Osadchiy, Alexander Sidelnikov, Alexander Panivan
Written by: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
Directed by: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 132
Date: 09/04/2015

The Tribe (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bad Signs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Ukrainian film is presented entirely without spoken dialogue; the characters, all deaf, speak in sign language with no subtitles for the rest of us. So The Tribe could be taken as a threat or a challenge. It's definitely disconcerting to not know exactly what anyone is saying, but actions do speak louder than words, and I'm fairly confident I followed the majority of it. It tells the story of a young man, a new student at an all-deaf school. As soon as he arrives, he falls in with some thugs, some student gangster types who are already running drug and prostitute rings. He is quickly singled out as someone who could be part of the team. He becomes attracted to one of the girls, begins sleeping with her, and she becomes pregnant. This sets the story up for some truly disturbing scenes and a harrowing conclusion. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy shoots in striking wide-angled, sustained shots, sometimes using stealthy tracking shots, and sometimes just holding breath-stoppingly still. It's very long and unrelentingly cruel, and the acting -- at least to hearing folks that don't speak the lingo -- can seem overly amateurish and awkward. (The actors seem to move too fast -- is this an homage to over-cranked old silent-era films?) But The Tribe is constantly riveting, and even if there is one other movie without spoken dialogue this year, Shaun the Sheep Movie, you still won't see anything else like it. (The Roxie Cinema is opening the movie in San Francisco on September 9, 2015.)

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