Flatpack Film Festival 2015: The Tribe

23 Mar

The Tribe

Flatpack's unique offering of film you wouldn't usually get to see in cinemas usually is highlighted with this fantastic Ukranian piece from Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. The description on Flatpack's website says the following:

A stand-out entry in Cannes last year, this startling debut has provoked strong reactions at every screening since. The story of Sergey, a young man working his way up the ranks of a brutal teenage gang, The Tribe is given added potency by being played out in a deaf boarding school, with all the characters communicating in sign language. There are no subtitles and so gradually we become much more attuned to faces and gestures, while the filmmakers’ deft use of sound and Steadicam helps to make for a compelling, discomfiting ride.

This was enough to sell me on going to see it but I don't think many in the audience had any idea what they were getting themselves in for with this film.

Shown at the Electric in Birmingham Sunday March 22nd it made for the perfect place for it to be viewed. For those who have never been to the Electric it's the UK's oldest working cinema and better than that it allows you to have a pint while you watch and this film definitely needed a drink or maybe even two.

The film follows this unassuming kid who I assume is 15 or 16 (we never find out) as he goes to some sort of boarding school for the deaf. Actually in this world as far as we're aware everyone in the world is deaf and as such everyone speaks using sign language. As the description from Flatpack said we have no subtitles to go from so we have to figure out meaning from body language, gestures and their faces.

It was eeire how everyone in the cinema watched, hardly uttering a sound as we all tried to take in everything we could with just our eyes. In a sense it was like we too had become deaf as the characters were and were slave to the one thing that we could rely on; what we could see. To add to the eeire nature of the viewing and the feeling of deafness there was also no soundtrack or music of any kind during the film. The only sound came from the physical interaction characters had with each other or the materials around them. The director is very smart in how he introduces us to the feeling of deafness and how the world works such as by letting us know very clearly that the light blinking is the school's version of a bell.

However very quickly we are taken out of this safe environment and thrust into a world of teen gangs as the main character is vetted for whether he uses drugs and if he will be able to make it in the gang. After a brutal initiation he's in. As we go on we start to see prostitution, mugging and I assume minor drug dealing on trains using dolls as a way to hide it (or maybe they were just selling dolls it's not clear).

The boy becomes infatuated with one of the girls who is used as prositute by Lorry drivers earning for the gang. When he becomes their pimp he takes advantage of his position to have sex with her in a very long and intimate scene that the director does not cut away from. The director chooses not to cut away from a lot of scenes where others usually would which truly does make it very uncomfortable to watch as we continue on escalating quickly from abortion to rape to death.

This was truly an interesting film to watch albeit an uncomfortable at times.

If you get a chance to watch it, take it.

If you've watched it let me know what you thought!

Flatpack is on until 29th March so you still have time to go to an event or two!


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Trevor Price

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