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There isn't a single spoken word in The Tribe and all characters communicate in what appears to be a sign language whose authenticity I wasn't able to verify. At first, I was expecting there would be subtitles because, if gestures used were indeed a real sign language, not having them would assume two levels of viewership: those who can understand it and those who can't. That doesn't really seem likely to me. Then I started wondering if the gestures were some fake sign language that no one can really understand and it was like that by design: there is no understandable language used in the movie to move the viewer from a focus on verbal understanding to a focus on gestures and body language.

Is the movie in real sign language? If yes, why was there no subtitles so that those who don't understand it are at par with those who do?

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From IMDb's trivia page for the movie:

The actors communicate in Ukranian sign language - anecdotally, users of western European sign languages may understand about 20% of it.

Director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky does not understand sign language and had to have interpreters on set to communicate and make sure that the actors were sticking to the script.

As for the lack of subtitles, it was intentional. Says the film's director:

“I am very glad that my film will be released in the United States,” Slaboshpitsky said. “I have always believed in the universality of film’s language, and have always believed that dialogue and subtitles change the way different audiences perceive the film in different countries.”

  • Do you also have some insights into the 2nd part of the question? – Napoleon Wilson Apr 20 '15 at 19:17
  • Yeah, sorry. Will add. – Walt Apr 20 '15 at 19:18
  • so then basically there are two levels of viewership, which i find awkward. how is that different from discouraging subtitles in any movie? – amphibient Apr 20 '15 at 19:22
  • Well, movies without subtitles can still be understood by native speakers. ;) – Walt Apr 20 '15 at 19:24
  • yes but they are not discouraged from subtitling when going into foreign markets. if you want to watch Bunuel's movies that are in French in the U.S., the DVD offers subtitles if you don't know French. I just want to know why this would be so much different?? – amphibient Apr 20 '15 at 19:27

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