After winning a slew of awards at European and major U.S. film festivals — including three prizes at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival — The Tribe, a film featuring a cast of hearing-impaired teenagers playing characters caught up in the harrowing world of the deaf mafia of Kiev, finally arrives in South Florida for a theatrical run. The Tribe is challenging cinema; it has no subtitles, and the actors speak no words beyond the use of Ukrainian sign language. Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, the film’s director/writer, says he was inspired by the purest kind of cinematic storytelling. “It’s an homage to the silent film,” he explains from Kiev via Skype.
The film follows Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko) as he enters a deaf boarding school. A group of troublemakers draws him into its circle to work for the deaf mafia (it’s a real thing, says Slaboshpitsky, a former crime reporter in the Ukraine). He goes from committing petty theft to pimping his female classmates at a truck stop. Conflict arises when he falls in love with one of the girls, Anya (Yana Novikova). There’s never been a film like this; it’s unique not only in its subject but also in its storytelling.
Most important, The Tribe harnesses the power of deaf actors like no other movie has. If anyone doubts whether a film like this could be understood by people who do not speak sign language, Novikova offers, “Wherever we showed the film, viewers who hear all understood. Of course, when deaf audiences see it, they pay attention to the gestures, to what the characters say with their hands. But that’s not the signed dialogue. That is the emotions, because deaf foreigners who don’t understand international sign are like hearing audiences forced to understand it from the emotions. When Miroslav explained to us what he needed us to do, he emphasized that the main thing was what emotions we give. If we forgot a word, he did not want us to worry — the main thing was to show emotion... Because of that, The Tribe is truly a film for everyone.”
The Tribe opens at 1:45 p.m. Friday at Cinema Paradiso Hollywood, 2008 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood. Call 954-525-3456, or visit fliff.com.