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Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, The Tribe, 2014, digital video, color, sound, 132 minutes. Svetka (Roza Babiy), Anya (Yana Novikova), and King (Olexandr Osadchyi).

THE ENTOURAGE of sponsors swanning in tenue de soirée into the Miramar cinema at last year’s Cannes Film Festival to attend the awards screening of Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe—the young Ukrainian director’s debut feature had just taken three major prizes in the Critics’ Week sidebar—were doubtless unprepared for the film’s violent and innovative nature. The initial shock of encountering a work made entirely in sign language without subtitles or voice-over, coupled with the film’s escalating brutality and explicit sex, quickly prompted audible unease among the benefactors and more than one seat-vaulting exodus. If Slaboshpytskiy had set out to épater la bourgeoisie, the panic provided a crowning Cannes triumph for his pitiless vision.

Closer to Salò (1975) than to Johnny Belinda (1948)—the film proffers a relentless parade of youthful bodies being pummeled,

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