It’s not every day that a film from Ukraine is released in the United States without subtitles. But “The Tribe” is in so many ways a special case: a crime drama about a teenage “deaf mafia” in which the only words used are sign language. As conceived, written and directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, the movie tells its story of violence and love through visuals alone, withholding translations of the nonprofessional actors’ passionate signing.
Even Mr. Slaboshpytskiy, 40, wondered whether his artistic gamble would work.
“Of course I was not sure when I start this film,” he said in a recent Skype conversation in English from Ukraine. “I thought it was a very brave and very pretentious idea. And nobody knew who I was!”
Now more people will know Mr. Slaboshpytskiy’s formidable name (pronounced slaw-bosh-PEETZ-kee): “The Tribe” begins a theatrical runon Wednesday in New York before its gradual release in theaters across the country. At festivals, his highly unusual debut feature has been a must-see, sweeping up prizes in the Critics’ Week competition last year in Cannes before going on to awards at AFI Fest, Sundance, the Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival and elsewhere.