“Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s feature debut The Tribe topped the winners of the 53rd edition of Cannes’ Critics Week,” reports Nigel M. Smith for Indiewire. “The film—told entirely through sign language, devoid of dialogue and subtitles—won the Nespresso Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize, and the newly-launched distribution grant from the Fondation Gan.”
“There have been countless films over the years about teenage gangs, their rites, rituals and violent codes of ethics,” writes Leslie Felperin in the Hollywood Reporter, and indeed, the story “follows a familiar parabolic path as it tracks an outsider who becomes major player. However, the use of sign language, deafness and silence itself adds several heady new ingredients to the base material, alchemically creating something rich, strange and very original.”
“Slaboshpytskiy manages to craft a continually engaging experience exclusively told through the heated movements and whispered exchanges of his characters,” writes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “As a concept, The Tribe has more in common with silent cinema, but its specific rhythms are unprecedented.”
Speaking with the director for The Day, Dmytro Desiateryk notes that Slaboshpytsky “ranks with today’s more successful Ukrainian filmmakers…. In 2012, his short Nuclear Waste won Silver Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival and in 2013 was nominated for the European Film Academy’s award in the best short film standing.”
The SACD (French Society of Authors, Composers and Directors) award goes to Boris Lojkine’s feature debut Hope. Once again, we turn to Leslie Felperin, who notes that this “first fiction film after two documentaries set in Vietnam (Ceux qui restent and Les Ames errantes) is one of the few African-centric stories to trace [a migratory journey] of desperation across the Sahara to Europe. But while there’s much to admire here in this scrupulously well-researched account of a Nigerian woman (Endurance Newton) and a Cameroonian man (Justin Wang) who partner up en route to Spain, the narrative trajectory that takes them from poverty to danger to doomed optimism and finally tragedy is a well-worn path.”
Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: “The film is as authentic as it is without compromise, from the falsification of passports to fake bank notes, immigrant community violence and crime, voodoo rituals, Christian premonitions and Muslim prayers. First and foremost, Hope offers a purely cinematic narrative line full of quality, founded in sobriety. It explores the silences, looks and profiles of its two main characters (charismatic amateur actors), a true challenge in such a brutal world. The incredible and moving realism, which emerges reveals a director whose work should be kept an eye on.”
Two more awards to mention: Jonas Carpignano’s Young Lions of a Gypsy has won the Discovery Prize for a Short Film and Gaëlle Denis’s Crocodile has won the Prix Canal for a Short Film.
Update, 5/23: Jonathan Romney, a member of the Nespresso Grand Prix jury headed by Andrea Arnold, writes for Film Comment that “it was a thrill to discover something so bold, innovative, and downright wayward…. You won’t emerge from The Tribe a competent reader of sign language, or precisely be able to translate a phrase like ‘I’ll trade you a blowjob for a visa stamp,’ but you’ll pretty much follow the kind of things that the characters are saying to each other. And you’ll become very aware of the intense expressivity of sign language, and the way that these kids’ gesturality becomes not just a communication of signs, a translation of words (apparently, what we’re seeing is a specifically Ukrainian sign language), but also an expression of emotion—the way a character makes a certain gesture, in anger, contempt or amusement, becomes intensely readable and conveys their personality as much as their meaning…. The Tribe, in short, was the most surprising, most inventive, and in many ways most disturbing film I’ve seen in Cannes this year.”
Updates, 5/24: Cineuropa talks with Boris Lojkine about Hope:
And back to The Tribe with Ben Kenigsberg at RogerEbert.com: “Sound is very much a character in the film (Slaboshpytskiy often uses Tati-esque footsteps to build tension), as are the frequent Steadicam shots, which give the movie a perverse elegance and energy. A conflict brews as the new guy, known as Sergey in the credits, develops an obsession with one of the prostitutes (Yana Novikova) the gang sells at a truck stop. This culminates in several scenes—including a drawn-out surgical procedure—that are as rigorously staged as they are difficult to watch. For formal prowess, no first feature I saw at Cannes comes close.”
Updates, 6/2: “The Tribe grabbed me by the throat and threw an exhilarating and deeply strange punch to the face,” writes Aaron Hillis, dispatching to Filmmaker. “There’s palpable anger and sadness to the whole ultraviolent, hypersexual affair… It’s a silent movie that screams.”
At the Playlist, Jessica Kiang argues that “despite the difficulty of its themes and the unfriendliness of its comedy-gold logline”—”unsubtitled Ukrainian sign-language drama”—”this is a film that deserves the biggest arthouse audience possible.”
Update, 3/21: “Lord of the Flies meets Larry Clark,” suggests Jessica Loudis, writing for the L, where she notes that “the lack of translations or speech give the film a haunting quality that illuminates its emotional force, and makes the shocking conclusion all that more dramatic.”
“Even if it ends up doing little more than jostling memories of better movies by Chantal Akerman or Gaspar Noé, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe should be seen for the sheer magisterial skill of its coordinated filmmaking,” writes Steve Macfarlane for Slant. “Not an undue amount of The Tribe‘s festival buzz hinges on Slaboshpytskiy’s undeniable gift for smooth, diorama-like tableaux that take on the dramatic weight of real time as his camera refuses to cut elsewhere, or the muffled sound of footsteps and whispers that form the characters’ non-dialogues.” That said, “The Tribe is probably heavier than it is deep, more interested in performance and symbolism than in the meaning of its characters’ words or their substitutive gestures.”
Updates, 3/29: Howard Feinstein for Filmmaker: “With the invaluable assistance of DP Valentyn Vasyanovych, the director invites us into the story with long Steadicam shots close to each subject, along depressing pale blue corridors and narrow passages between rigs that can barely accommodate a human hurriedly walking through. Slaboshpytskiy wants it both ways: he also keeps us outside, often literally, by shooting symmetrical compositions through glass. Normal distancing is exacerbated by the disorienting lack of dialogue for us to hear, no matter where we are positioned. Fantastic contradictions abound. The facility is like a prison. When they are not shooting through glass, they’re filming someone peering out of it, through anachronistic windows with splendid radiating spokes that are pretty much all that is left of the place’s former Old World splendor. Hell, the original Turkish toilets are still in place.”
“While The Tribe may initially come off as an elaborate stunt, the masterful technique on display trumps any misgivings,” adds Christopher Bourne at Twitch.
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