Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy Talks About His Deaf Film The TribePosted by Wilson Morales
June 17, 2015
Coming out on June 17 in New York is this amazing foreign film called The Tribe. Directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, this Ukrainian drama “unfolds through the non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors (Hryhoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova and Roza Babiy amongst the cast) with no need for subtitles or voice over resulting in a unique, never-before-experienced cinematic event that engages the audience on a new sensory level.”
Teenage Sergey (Grigoriy Fesenko), a new student at the boarding school, realizes immediately that he must prove himself worthy to be brought under the protective wing of the school gang’s leader to survive unscathed. After an indoctrination of harmless initiation pranks and rites, Sergey’s new-found clique soon introduces him to their common activities of robbery, bribery and prostitution. At first assimilating seamlessly into his new role in the tribe, he finds himself compromised as he begins to fall in love with his female classmate—and one of the gang’s escorts—triggering a sequence of stunningly diabolical events.
Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Slaboshpytskiy about the making of this extraordinary and unique film using deaf people.
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy: When I was a very boy, I was studying in the same school where we shot the film and on the opposite site of the road, we have a deaf school. I was really impressed with how deaf people communicated with each other. It looks like they had the highest level of communication, but for me it also looked like a miracle. With any use of words, they communicated through feelings and sign language, which I could never understand. I had some memories from my childhood that had helped me. When I studied in film school, I thought it would be a great idea to make a modern silent film, but not many. After 20 years, I still had the idea and made this film.
How challenging was it not only to make the film, but marketing it?
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy: What’s funny is that the people in Ukraine work differently that the people here in the United States. In the States, you can be a big star and make a lot of money, but on the other side of the world, no one cares what happens to you. In Europe and in Ukraine, all films are supposed by the government and by the taxpayer’s money. Of course, it’s not easy to make films. I even have asked friends for money to make short films. It’s the usually way for every director I think. I had previously made short films on deaf people, which had screened at Locarno Film Festival. That made me a local celebrity in the Ukraine community and with The Tribe, we had shown it all around the world at other festivals. This short film was very important for me for a number of reasons. I tested myself in terms of story-telling because there’s a big difference with what you think in your brain from how will it look like and how will it look like on the screen. Secondly, I can show the people how it looks like. I got money from Rotterdam and from the Ukraine state fund. We shot the film The Tribe.
Was it you intention to start the film off as a dramedy?
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy: I think it must have some of it. It’s a very popular genre with a number of cliches. To be clear, I wanted to tell the story without verbal words. For this reason, I revised the script. I wanted to tell a simple story so that the audience can follow it. At more than two hours on sign language, the audience wouldn’t be involved with the story so I used the best sign language to explain feelings and emotions. Some people saw this as a thriller because of the way we shot the film with the camera and frames. One of the London newspapers called it a “Silent Horror Film.”
There’s one particular scene that presents the most sound you would hear in the film. Was that intentional?
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy: As I think about it now, it happened accidentally. Deaf people can’t hear the sounds they produce. I was really surprised because when we shot the scene, Yana Novikova, who plays Anna, did not produce any sound and she told me, “I couldn’t control it because I couldn’t hear.” It was a special experience for the audience. Some people have lost consciousness during the scene. What’s interesting is that Yana was completely mute throughout the shoot except for that one scene. After the traveling the world and now here in the States, she can do more sounds.