Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Original title: Plemya
Ukraine/Netherlands, 2014. Ukrainian State Film Agency, Rinat Akhmetov’s Foundation “Development of Ukraine”, Garmata Film Production, The Hubert Bals Fund of the Rotterdam Festival. Screenplay by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky. Cinematography by Valentyn Vasyanovych. Produced by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, Valentyn Vasyanovych. Production Design by Vlad Odudenko. Costume Design by Alena Gres. Film Editing by Valentyn Vasyanovych. National Board of Review Awards 2015. Online Film Critics Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
A teenager goes to live in a boarding school and is immediately plunged into the shady dealings of his fellow students. After barely surviving a rough initiation, the boy joins up with kids who are dealing drugs and running prostitution out of the school, becoming quite the success at it until his personal feelings for one of the young women who is working the trucks in midnight parking lots inspire him to break the rules. Where the film ventures into newer territory is the fact that the entire thing is performed by hearing-impaired actors, all the dialogue relayed through Russian sign language without any translation. The effect is almost hypnotizing, an impressively easy movie to follow given that for many of the members of the audience it is being told in a foreign language and we are left to rely on emotional expression to understand what is going on. As exceptionally well assembled as it is, along with the terrific acting by mostly non-professional performers, the story is still mundane and can’t be made unique by even this high level of original storytelling. At some point you realize that watching girls put lipstick on in the back of a truck for ten minutes isn’t made that much more interesting by them both being hearing impaired.