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Film / The Tribe

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The Tribe (original title of Плем'я) is a Ukrainian film by writer/director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy about organized crime in a school for the deaf. The film is presented without subtitles or voiceovers, and is almost entirely in Ukrainian sign language. Outside of that, it's an incredibly bleak film. The protagonist, Sergey, a new arrival to the school, gets pulled into the gang's ranks after one of the gang members suffers a fatal accident. He subsequently falls in love with one of the girls he is pimping and tragedy ensues as he attempts to prevent her from being taken from him.


This film exhibits the following tropes:

  • Adults Are Useless: Or in the case of the woodworking teacher, corrupt.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Anya goes to an abortionist who works out of her home over a bathtub with instruments sterilized over the gas stove.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Sergey proves himself by defending himself with relatively little effort when getting jumped by several other students at once.
  • Crapsack World: All characters involved live in a world basically derived of human compassion, empathy or love, and no one is safe from brutal and often senseless violence; it's not easy to watch.
  • Door-Closes Ending: The film ends with Sergey murdering his attackers before slowly walking down the corridor and shutting himself into the stairway to make his escape.
  • Failed a Spot Check: One of the gang members fails to notice a truck backing up behind him due to his deafness. This accident results in Sergey being brought into the gang.
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  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Anya is a prostitute who gets pregnant from her relationship with Sergey. Even so, her abortion was portrayed as more neutral than anything. Why she goes to a back-alley practitioner instead of a real physician isn't clear though-perhaps so her parents won't find out?
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted that there are moments where you almost want the film to look away. Violent muggings, abortions, a gang member being crushed by a truck and Sergey crushing the heads of his attackers in their sleep are all shown onscreen.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: When the gang attacks Sergey near the end, they smash a bottle across his head. This is not played for comedy.
  • Harmful to Minors: Sending your kid away to a place where they might fit in, only for them to fall into a life of crime and violence.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The teenagers care as little about inflicting pain and violence on each other as they do about attacking innocent strangers. Genuine love and empathy just doesn't exist in the tribe.
  • Improvised Weapon: Near the end of the film, Sergey gets his revenge on the gang members by smashing their heads in while the sleep with their desks.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Sergey mugs his crooked woodworking teacher.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Repeatedly, primarily on Sergey by members of the gang, although, at the end of the film, he gets his revenge on them one by one.
  • No Name Given: Though the characters have names in the cast list, the dialogue-less nature of the film means there are no names given in the entire film.
  • The Oner: The majority of the film's scenes are done in long, continuous takes.
  • Pet the Dog: Repeatedly zigzagged with Sergey. He falls in love with Anya... but ends up impregnating her. He helps pay for the abortion... by robbing one of his teachers. He saves her from being sold as a sex slave... but also rapes her.
  • Rape as Drama: Sergey rapes Anya toward the end of the film.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The film has no music, neither soundtrack nor diegetic music.
  • Reality Has no Subtitles: The choice to have no subtitles has been criticized by some reviewers — after all, sign language is a language like any other — but ultimately, the director stated that he wanted the viewer to feel like an outsider, only able to understand in broad strokes.
  • Scenery Gorn: The ruinous, dilapidated architecture fits the bleak atmosphere of the film so perfectly that it enhances every scene.
  • Sex Slave: While the two prostitutes are implied to be volunteers working for the money, it's indicated that their planned trip to Italy is to sell them as sex slaves.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Even if you don't understand Ukrainian Sign Language and are bothered by the film's lack of words, you could mostly comprehend what's happening on screen through characters' actions.
  • Teenage Wasteland: In the A Clockwork Orange variant, basically no adult intervention exists for these extremely troubling teens.
  • Teens Are Monsters: And won't hesitate to mug you if you're walking home with groceries.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The teenagers in this film run gangs as if they were full-fledged adult criminals, commit brutal acts of violence, and rape and pimp each other out culminating in one of them murdering four others in their beds.
  • Signed Language: The entirety of the film's primary dialogue is in unsubtitled Ukrainian Sign Language.
  • Zerg Rush: The tribe's preferred method of attack is having several members surprise a victim and beat them into unconsciousness before stealing their belongings.