NEW YORK - By my count, this is the 10th (out of a possible 13) Tribeca Film Festivals we’ve been to, and I still never know what to expect when I get here. I know the neighborhoods - we stay in Chelsea, not Tribeca (which launched but hasn’t contained the festival), because that’s where most of the press and industry screenings are held - and the venues (although the Chelsea Clearview is now the Bow-Tie Cinema), but I’m at a loss to tell you what it all means. I always intend to provide some sort of overarching, eagle-eye view of the proceedings, but frankly, I’m just boots on the ground, moving from one screening to another, hoping to discover something good.
Maybe I don’t prepare for the festival like some do - my schedule is always fairly loose, with only a couple of must-sees circled - but for me the thrill of a festival environment is sitting in the dark waiting for the unknown to bloom on the screen. I like to be surprised; that’s what I’m always hoping for at the movies.
These days film critics see movies in lots of ways, and the most infrequent way I see them is in a regular theater setting among general moviegoers. Some might argue that’s the optimal way to watch a movie, since most of them are presumably designed for general entertainment purposes, but there’s a difference between most movies and the sort of movies that comprise film festivals. Only a few of these movies are actually going to play the cineplexes; discerning audiences are going to have to seek them out.
For instance, you’re going to have to work to catch any of the short films that made up the City Limits program (so called because of their perceived New York-centric quality), which was the first screening we made it to after landing at LaGuardia. What I didn’t realize was that this wasn’t your typical jeans-and sweatshirt press screening, but each of these little movies’ world premieres. And since one of these movies was the Chelsea Clinton-produced, Linda G. Mills-directed Of Many - about the Institute for Multifaith Leadership at New York University led by Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Muslim Imam Khalid Latif (close friends who star in the film and probably should have a late-night talk show) - the theater was full and the crowd was swank and we sat two rows in front of our old neighbors Bill and Hillary Clinton.
I don’t want to write too much about Of Many at this point - see Karen Martin’s piece about it for more detail - except to say I can’t imagine it won’t make it to either the Little Rock Film Festival or Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, or at least a one off screening at the Clinton Presidential Center. It’s for sure a kumbaya-around-the campfire project, but I found it inspiring.
I didn’t make it to the festival’s Totally Twisted program for midnight movie-style shorts, but I did see One, Please, a pleasantly gory six-minute product from the Arkansas film community. The cast includes Michael Berryman, Sailor Holland, Catherine Burks, Alan Rackley and Langston Thompson. Gabe Mahan shot it, Kathryn Tucker and the Miller brothers (Joshua and Miles) produced, the Galusha brothers (Les and Russ) edited and Dr. Jesse Burks - a Little Rock based surgeon - wrote and directed this nearly silent Charles Addams-esque scenario. It’s very well done, and particular attention should be paid to Dwight Chalmers’ sound design.
Maybe it shouldn’t be a mystery as to why Tribeca always seems to be stronger in documentaries than in narrative fiction - almost every film festival I’ve ever been to (including the Little Rock Film Festival) seems that way. There just aren’t that many good features. Nevertheless,Goodbye to All That, the directorial debut of Junebug screenwriter Angus MacLachlan, is one of the most satisfying indie dramatic comedies I’ve seen in a while. It stars Paul Schneider as a young dad who is blindsided when his wife (Melanie Lynskey) files for divorce.
And maybe the best film I’ve seen so far this year is the Dutch documentary Ne Me Quitte Pas, about the friendship between two middle-aged Belgian alcoholics. Also An Honest Liar, about the Amazing Randi, is an extraordinary doc. (Maybe we’ll see one or both in Hot Springs later this year.) I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the well-realized but ultimately perplexing Finnish documentary Love & Engineering, which starts out with an intriguing premise - a cadre of high IQ/low EQ computer geeks set out to “hack” the concept of romantic love.
I saw the mild sports doc Next Goal Wins - about what happens when the heretofore hapless American Samoa soccer team acquires a world class coach - at a screening prior to the festival. It has its moments, but be warned: It’s more effective as a travelogue and work of cultural anthropology than a football movie. And it’s a little long.
On the other hand, the “doc opera” Super Duper Alice Cooper and actor Michael Rappaport’s valentine to the golden years of the New York Knicks, When the Garden Was Eden, are exactly what you’d expect them to be. And both are highly enjoyable.
I don’t hate horror movies. I just seem to have bad luck with them. I tried a couple at Tribeca, found my interest flagging, and wandered out.It seems doubtful to me that they’ll actually get distribution and turn up at local theaters, but if they do, I guess I’ll give them another try.
I’ll write more later. Maybe I’ll even get around to producing some encompassing think piece about this year’s festival. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 04/25/2014
Print Headline: First flashes from Tribeca 2014