‘The Tribe’ Scores Spirited Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

Ukrainian Cannes Wow Bow also shaping up as a Karlovy Vary highlight

The Tribe Cannes 2014

Ukrainian Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s “The Tribe,” which Karlovy Vary Film Fest artistic director Karel Och describes as “the cinematic event of the year,” is maintaining sales momentum after sweeping all three prizes at Cannes Critics’ Week.

A U.S. deal between sales agent Alpha Violet and Drafthouse Films was unveiled Wednesday.

Depicting love, hatred, brutality, extortion and prostitution at a Ukrainian boarding school for deaf mutes, which is entirely played out in sign language sans subtitles or voiceover, “The Tribe” has also sold to Seoul-based Aud for South Korea, a European-movie distributor that also bought “Leviathan,” and to Hong Kong’s First Distributors, another foreign-language specialist.

Among Eastern European distributors, MCF MegaCom has bought ex-Yugoslavia territories, and Art Fest rights to Bulgaria.

Other “Tribe” distributors have also cherry-picked other top titles at Cannes. One example: Bratislava-based Film Europe Media Co., which also acquired “Winter Sleep” and “Leviathan,” will distribute Slaboshpytskiy’s feature debut in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Iceland’s Bio Paradis has also purchased “The Tribe,” the first time Alpha Violet has ever sold to the territory directly.

Charting the protagonist’s fate after he falls in love with one of the prostitutes he’s pimping, “The Tribe” got off to a running sales start at Cannes: UFO Distribution, a company which focuses on innovative titles, closed France; young Amsterdam distrib Amstel Films secured Benelux; Ost for Paradis, another adventurous distributor, licensed Denmark; Atsuko Murata’s Mimosa Films swooped on rights to Japan.

In an ultra-rapid rollout for an art pic, Alpha Violet is now in negotiations for the U.K., Scandinavia and Latin America. Further deals are sure to go down, said Virginie Devesa, a partner at Paris-based Alpha Violet, which picked up “The Tribe” before its Cannes Critics’ Week selection.

“This is the first time I’ve had this experience as a sales agent. I hope I live it again. The film is so radical, original, that you might have expected these results, but you never know,” Devesa added, saying that it helped to have had the film before Cannes selection, allowing Alpha Violet to work with the producers on the trailer and other promotional materials.

Exemplifying a strategy of picking up on a Cannes title whose large significance — artistic, industrial — only really emerges with prizes, Karlovy Vary’s Och has activated at Karlovy Vary an effective Slaboshpytskiy retrospective. Next Thursday, three of the Ukranian director’s unsettling shorts will screen at a KVIFF Talk With Slaboshpytskiy event.

They illustrate very well where the director — a TV scribe who worked at Kiev’s Dovzhenko Film Studio and St. Petersburg’s Lenfilm Studios — is coming from.

Competing at 2009’s Berlin, “Diagnosis” turns on a pregnant young woman who lives with two drug pushers in a run-down Kiev apartment. After a police raid, she gives birth prematurely. Yet the important thing isn’t the baby, but to keep the group together.

Set in the restriction zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which exploded in 1986, “Nuclear Waste,” which won a 2012 Locarno Silver Leopard, has no dialogues, and is again formally radical: Jury head Mark People said the jury couldn’t tell if “Nuclear Waste” was fiction work with pro actors or documentary.

Certainly some of the things the couple featured in the film do in front of the camera aren’t normally seen in documentaries.

Playing Berlin and Rotterdam, 2010’s “Deafness” features the brutal police interrogation of a deaf-mute teenager. Again, no words are heard. The violence doesn’t need them.