Portland International Film Festival 2015: The Tribe (Ukraine)

By Cameron Crowell /// Arts Editor 

The Tribe is Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s directorial and (depending on how you define it) screenwriting debut. Throughout the entire two-and-a-half hour film, there is no audible dialogue or subtitles. From the trailer–and the first 30 minutes, for that matter– I assumed that the film would be a cutesy love story relying on the gimmick, “love and hatred need no translation.” What I got was one of the most haunting films I have ever seen.

The film centers on a new student arriving to a Kiev boarding school for the deaf and dumb, where the social hierarchy is run by a sort of student Mafia. The men sell drugs, break into homes, rob train passengers, and run a sex-trafficking ring with the female students, which intensifies when the protagonist falls in love with one of the women he is supposed to be pimping out. It is graphic, violent, uncensored, and, unfortunately, acted well enough to the point at which I felt entirely immersed.

Slaboshpytskiy utilizes wide camera angles that get every person in the shot for a given scene, yet he still does not masquerade the bleak lighting of a Ukrainian winter (think Wes Anderson meets Kids, set in Eastern Europe). This film is not for the faint of heart. At least 20 people left during the course of the film (eight during a particularly gut-wrenching scene), but it is a piece of cinema that brings up new perspectives on disability, class, gender, and art. Would I see it again? Not a chance. But for now, I am left raw, speechless, and grateful to have been made this uncomfortable.

The Tribe

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