ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

1. OK, so when you think of major contributions to cinema, you may not think of the Ukraine. Until now. The Tribe is a completely one-of-a-kind film that pushes the boundaries of cinema, and serves as an experiment in human communication. It will be taught in film classes until the end of time.

2. The story takes place at a boarding school for kids who are both deaf and mute. Sergey is a teenager who has just arrived, and he is immediately targeted by a group of boys. They both bully him and accept him, and he becomes part of the group. This ends up not being good for Sergey.

3. What makes the movie so amazing is that it is "spoken" entirely in Ukranian sign language. There is absolutely no spoken dialogue, no narration, and no subtitles. There isn't even a musical soundtrack. The only sounds in the entire film are peripheral sounds like footsteps and traffic.

4. Unless you are one of the minuscule percentage of people that know Ukranian sign language, this film is the same for everybody in the world, hearing or deaf. You must concentrate and figure out the story entirely from body language, movement, and the way the movie is filmed. I was both surprised and proud that I pretty much understood what was going on.

5. It's pretty odd to watch people fight and have sex without ever saying anything. But it makes sense.

6. This movie could have ended up being a gimmicky stunt, but it's not. It tells a full story like any other movie, except that all the dialogue between the characters is in sign language. Since you don't know what the characters are saying to each other, some scenes don't make sense until a little later, when you get some more context.

7. The actors are actually deaf, and are just regular people - they are not professional actors. This is obvious in a few of the scenes, which feel a little amateur.

8. Though the movie is about teenagers, it's pretty adult, and contains scenes of fairly explicit sex and violence. And it's not happy. It's bleak, both visually and emotionally.

9. Because it takes place in almost complete silence, and it's a drama with no special effects or loud noises, some people may find it boring, or even fall asleep from a lack of stimulation. And that's too bad. Reflecting on what the movie does and says, I think it's an amazing work of art that opened my ears to parts of life that I didn't realize I could actually hear.

What did you think? Was it confusing to you? Or boring? Let us know below!


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