Drafthouse Films is still a relatively young label in the grand scheme of things — their first release, Four Lions, only hit theaters in late 2010 — but they’ve already established a clear and successful identity through their films. They’ve already seen two of their titles receive Academy Award nominations, and they’ve remained unpredictable in their choices thanks to a roster that includes dramas, comedies, documentaries and more as diverse as Pieta, Miami Connection and The Final Member.
That proud tradition of finding and loving odd world cinema continues with what will be their thirtieth release, The Tribe.
The Ukrainian film won multiple awards at this year’s Cannes Independent Critics’ Week, but the film stands out for more than its numerous accolades. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy‘s feature debut is a tale of youthful drama and abandon at a boarding school for the deaf, and it’s told entirely in sign language. No subtitles. No voice-over. Just sign language.
Check out the first (NSFW) teaser for the film below. (This was the sales teaser used at Cannes.)
The idea here is that dialogue isn’t needed for viewers to understand and appreciate the film’s story and characters. Events, expressions and attitudes tell us all we need to know, and Slaboshpytskiy has been thrilled to find the intended response across his film’s multiple screenings.
I am pleased to have created a universal film that audiences around the world can perceive in the same way, regardless of race, language or country. People laugh at the same parts and are horrified by the same parts. I think The Tribe is a truly universal movie in terms of language, and this makes me supremely happy.“
The concept here is interesting, and I get the impression that it’s far more than a simple gimmick. But I wonder if there’s something specific about sign language that makes the film theoretically accessible to all audiences regardless of their signing skills. Meaning, how different is this really from watching a well-crafted foreign language film with the subtitles turned off? Just as we’ll presumably follow The Tribe through the characters’ expressions and the intensity of the gestures, isn’t it possible to do the same with other “languages?”
I would point to the beautiful South Korean film, 3-Iron, as evidence to support my query. (Sure sure there’s very little dialogue at all in Kim Ki-duk’s film, but you get the point so stop trying to find flaws in my argument goddammit.)
No release date has been set yet, but expect The Tribe to screen in select theaters across North America and to be released on a variety of VOD platforms and digital, DVD, and Blu-ray formats.