Myroslav: Hmm, the German expressionism films were a great and strange experience when I saw them years ago. It’s not a homage to any particular silent movie because, partly, The Tribe looks like Mark Sennett’s comedies, lots of action, lots of physical activities. But of course when we speak about silent movies we must speak of Murnau and Fritz Lang.
Keifer: Did you intend to have comedic elements?
Myroslav: No, I just wanted to make a film where audiences must understand without spoken words. Also, when we removed scenes with spoken words we cut a lot of scenes with any social issues and boundaries that society has pushed on us. We wanted to present a world where people are naked. By this I don’t mean nudity. It refers to an absence of religious values and etiquette – like Nietszche’s philosophy.
Keifer: A friend of mine in Kiev saw the film when released in Ukraine. What was the general reaction like domestically?
Myroslav: It’s very interesting because the film was a part of the socio-political climate and we had a huge scandal regarding Oscar nominations. The film wasn’t nominated due to our corrupt Ukranian Oscar committee. As it happens, this lead to great battles on facebook, people against the film and others for it. Anyway, it has been very successful in relation to Ukraine’s independence of 23 years.
Screenings have gone very well. Of course, the film is 2 hours and 10 minutes and Ukraine doesn’t have many screens. We have something like 200 screens… I’m not sure. We have one screening per day due to the age certificate of 18 years old. It’s a commercial problem but we’ve had a strong position in the domestic box office. We are not fucking Titanic or Lord of the Rings but not bad for an Art House film with an age restriction (smiles)
Keifer: It couldn’t have been easy to finance the film either. Was it a long process?
Myroslav: Well, I think it’s the same process like in every country. If you’re a British filmmaker you can take money from the British film fund or if you’re a German filmmaker you have a German film fund. Sometimes in America they take money from German people. Nothing new with this film, but it wasn’t easy. We collect the budget over approximately four years and some funds support us, such as Hubert Bals and then some private funds in Ukraine and then we get support from Ukranian State Film Agency.
Keifer: You’ve worked with deaf actors previously with your short film Deafness. How was it building a relationship with the actors?
Myroslav: This film really helped me because I had an idea to make a modern silent film with deaf actors for around 20 years. When making a short film I had two great opportunities: I can test for myself this way of storytelling and see that it works and I can present this approach to anyone who may question it. Also, I have a very good connection with a number of people from the deaf community. It’s very important, as the deaf community in Ukraine is a very enclosed society. They have a border between us and I felt it was very important to make this film for them.
Keifer: Their alienation seems to be conveyed in a scene in The Tribe when the two girls are in a huge queue and the sounds of the surrounding conversations are muffled.
Myroslav: Yes, the Italian Embassy scene. It’s a funny thing, that was the former embassy of the United States in Kiev. They built a new, nice building and left. We needed this scene to push the story forward but it was very complicated as they needed to be in the line and those in the line couldn’t be deaf. So me and my sound designer tried to produce certain noises in each voice.
Keifer: Each sequence is so carefully choreographed. Did you face many challenges both technically and with the actors during rehearsals?
Myroslav: Yeah, we had unprofessional actors with no experience. We had a lot of rehearsals. We would have a week sometimes 2 weeks per scene then we would shoot when ready. We would shoot on a Canon 5D MKII with my DoP, then we would make some remarks, then we would rehearse again and again. Finally we would have one shooting day; sometimes it would take 24 hours. But finally we had a nice take. I think it is the secret of The Tribe in that we had a lot of rehearsals – to be clear, we didn’t work like other people on an industrial movie because we had no film star, allowing us to pay a monthly fee to actors rather than a full sum. As well, it gave us a time period of half a year, including the rehearsals and shooting. I’m so happy about this approach but I’m not sure it will be possible to shoot this way in the future. But it’s one of the best ways.
Keifer: Back to the dialogue. You even avoid using it in your other short Nuclear Waste.
Myroslav: I originally had dialogue in Nuclear waste. Then during the rehearsals I thought the dialogue was ugly and I felt maybe I could cut it out. Finally, it seemed this could work and this is it. Considering Nuclear Waste, it’s funny because it’s 23 minutes, which made it easier. Rather than following a script of 12-13 pages I prepared a photo storyboard, enabling me to know what must happen, pointing out all camera positions.
Keifer: Is this something you wish to continue with?
Myroslav: I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ve received a grant from Hubert bals fund to develop a new project about Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. Of course, I had a script and a treatment because you need this when you find a producer. It must be screened in December 2015, so plenty of time for preparation. It’s not easy shooting inside the exclusion zone but it's a very interesting place. I have dialogue in the script but… we’ll see if we have dialogue in the film (Smiles)