Ukrainian film director Myroslav Slaboshpytsky’s production (jointly with the Netherlands) The Tribe (Plemya) is on the feature films list, according to the line-up for the International Critics’ Week, announced on April 21. In other words, it will vie for the Camera d’or award conferred on the best full-length debut. This production was chosen during the line-up from among 1,200 others submitted.
The Tribe is a filmmaking experiment. It uses a sign language, there are no subtitles or off-screen voice. Serhii, the main character, finds himself in a boarding school for children with affected hearing. Here, as should be expected from an institution of this kind, there is an inner criminal organization. The boy tries to find a place in its hierarchy and takes part in several burglaries. Then he falls in love with Anna, who is one of the local criminal boss’ concubines, thus violating the unwritten – and very rigid – code of ethics of the local “tribe.”
Charles Tesson, the artistic director of the Critics’ Week, says the sign language the characters use in The Tribe creates a sophisticated ballet performance, that what one sees is purely physical communication, leaving one dazed by this unique filmmaking experience.
The entire cast is made up of deaf people without any drama experience. The casting involved over 300 contenders from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. Valentyn Vasianovych is the director of photography and producer. I might as well point out, that this is not Slaboshpytsky’s first experiment in the field; suffice it to remember his short film Deafness (2010) where the cast was made up of people with hearing problems and which was submitted to the Berlin International Film Festival as a full-fledged competitor.
Cannes Critics’ Week is a full-length line-up aimed at spotting fresh filmmaking talent. At various periods it discovered the now world-famous names of Bernardo Bertolucci, Otar Iosseliani, Guillermo del Toro, Leos Carax, Wong Kar-wai, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Gaspar Noe, and Francois Ozon.
Myroslav Slaboshpytsky ranks with today’s more successful Ukrainian filmmakers. His short Diagnosis was also submitted to the Berlinale. 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 Tribe is his full-length debut.
The Day asked Myroslav SLABOSHPYTSKY for comment on his production being selected for Cannes this year.
“That was fantastic, considering that the shooting schedule had to be broken due to various circumstances. We’d hoped we would be through by the Cannes date – at least have a rough copy of the film. In fact, I’d already decided we’d have to wait for Venice or Locarno, but we finished shooting in time to send a rough copy to Cannes on April 3, considering that April 4 marked the deadline of the Critics’ Week line-up. Much to our surprise, the film was accepted. I’d been hoping that I’d have some rest [after failing to meet the Cannes schedule] and then start editing the film, in peace and quiet. Now we are in the middle of a mad race, working on the soundtrack, coping with lots of local distribution problems. The Critics’ Week has three awards for seven best productions. I’ve never dreamed of receiving one… Of course, you first regard the fact as just that, an award, but after arriving at the place of the festival you find yourself wondering about it – why not? Of course, I realize that the very fact of vying in Cannes is far more important than receiving the Grand Prix of the Moscow Film Festival, the more so that there have been no Ukrainian productions. Well, let’s wait and see.”