Attention must be paid when a film as formally audacious as The Tribe comes along.
Debut feature director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy made it with an all-deaf cast and chose to forgo narration and subtitles. Even knowledge of American Sign Language won't help, since the action takes place in the Ukraine, though the untrained actors communicate just fine through their gestures and body movements. The central character, Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko), kicks the story into motion when he arrives at a boarding school at which the students make all their own rules, and the teachers either don't know or don't care.
After a rough initiation, Sergey finds his niche as a pimp for two girls (including the excellent Yana Novikova) who double as truck-stop prostitutes. In the process of following this narrative thread, the film brings to mind the tough medicine of Vera Drake and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. In other words, it offers a vivid argument for the necessity of safe, legal, affordable abortion. The already grim story only gets grimmer as Italian passports and wooden mallets come into play.
Some deaf viewers have taken offense at the venal world Slaboshpytskiy depicts, and their concerns are understandable, but in his own brutal way, the director makes a compelling case for better training and education so hellholes like the school in this film won't exist.