At the Movies

May 6, 2007

The Tribeca Film Festival ran from April 25 – May 6 and included 157 features and 88 short films from 47 countries. I’m not entirely sure that it is possible, but I just might have gone a bit overboard with my film viewing. 

Here’s what I saw in the order in which I saw them. Some were great, some mediocre, and I actually walked out of one film. The descriptions below are taken from the Festival’s Web site. Most of the shorts are available online to view them, just click here.

  1. Playing the Victim
    In this black-humored Russian Hamlet by one of Moscow’s top theater directors, a young slacker receives nocturnal visits from his father’s ghost and literally “plays the victim” in crime reconstruction videos. Observing a farcical justice system with a brash collage of visual styles, this acerbic depiction of contemporary Moscow chronicles Valya’s dangerously escalating disgust with his world. Grand Prize Winner, Rome Film Festival.
  2. The Pelican
    Dubbed “the French James Dean” for his roles in films by Claude Chabrol (Le beau Serge, Les cousins) and Howard Hawks (Hatari), Gérard Blain’s work as director never surfaced in the U.S. This is his masterpiece, a moving account of parental love and obsession, filmed in a rigorous style that recalls Bresson or Dreyer—sans religion.
  3. To Die a Little (Short)
    A remarkable rediscovery: In Chile, To Die A Little (Morir Un Poco) was proscribed, hunted down and destroyed. Considered “lost” for decades, a copy was recently discovered in the vault of a European film festival. An unknown jewel of Latin American filmmaking, unearthed and restored last year, it features images recalling Cassavetes and Rouch.  
  4. Memories About Sayat Nova (Short)
    (aka The Color of Pomegranates)—Restored, Memories About Sayat Nova (Vospominania o Sayat Nove) reveals astonishingly beautiful, newly discovered scenes from Sergei Paradjanov’s masterwork Sayat Nova, which was censored by the Soviet government.
  5. Shame
    In 2002, Mukhtaran Mai, a woman living in a remote Pakistani village, was publicly gang raped to atone for a crime her brother allegedly committed. Instead of killing herself, as she was expected to do, she raised an outcry that became an international cause. A powerful essay in courage. In Urdu and Sariki.
  6. Normal Adolescent Behavior
    A darkly comic look at precocious teens grappling with sex, excess and alienation. Avoiding the high school party scene and random hookups, Wendy (Amber Tamblyn) and her friends form a clique that claims a more fluid sexuality. Schacter’s directorial debut delivers a provocative take on teen romance in this modern promiscuous age.
  7. Planet B-Boy
    A powerful documentary about the vibrant global resurgence of break-dancing, Planet B-Boy goes inside the underground hip- hop dance scenes around the world, as the best crews prepare for the “The Battle of the Year”—an annual “World Cup” of b-boying. Director Lee combines spectacular dance footage with poignant insight explaining why these dancers make tremendous sacrifices for their art. In English, French, Japanese and Korean.
  8. Man of Two Havanas
    Growing up in Miami, the director witnessed drive-by shootings and death threats directed toward her father, a former friend of Fidel Castro and opponent of the embargo. Using never-before-heard CIA audiotapes and fascinating interviews with her father, Weisman links his past and present in an eye-opening film that’s sure to be talked about. In Spanish and English.
  9. Say Can You See (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    An improbable witness experiences New York City from atop the Empire State Building during a time of extraordinary change. Day to night, light to dark, the pathos of the American spirit is explored through a historic event.
  10. Red Shoes (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    An aging Chinatown masseuse, Linda, tries to find a way to buy her 10 year-old daughter, Dee, a pair of shoes. When pressured by her client to make easy money, her vanity gets the better of her and she gives in to temptation. But as Linda finds herself falling down the slippery slope of moral compromise, Dee begins to discover the truth about what her mother does for a living. How far will Linda’s greed take her, and will she be able to continue protecting Dee from the truth?
  11. Lock (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    Two strangers briefly connect as they find themselves locked on a New York city rooftop.
  12. A Nick In Time (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    An old school Brooklyn barber recounts an incident from his past to a troubled young man who is on the verge of making a major life-altering decision. But can the barber get through to him before things spiral out of control?
  13. Super Powers (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    A young couple tries to save their marriage by dressing up as super heroes in the bedroom. But when they’re unexpectedly forced out onto the streets of New York City, they end up saving much more than their sex life. Winner, Special Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short.
  14. Raving (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    With no apparent direction, young and reckless urbanite, Katie, uses her charm to swindle her way through life. When she meets Dito, an older man in search of a cleaning lady, she thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to clean him out. She soon learns, however, that for Dito, it’s not about getting rid of the clutter in his apartment, but also the memories that go with it.
  15. Happiness (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    One evening, after work, Iwona buys a box of happiness in a strange discount store and has to decide what to do with it. Inspired by the myth of Pandora’s box, Happiness is a straight-faced comedy about how the little things can make all the difference in a humdrum world.
  16. In Vivid Detail (Short — Express Stops Only Program)
    In Vivid Detail is the unusual love story between Leslie and Justin, an architect who suffers from Prosopagnosia — a neurological disorder that makes him incapable of recognizing faces. The couple must decide whether their new relationship can overcome the obstacles ahead of them as they try to cope with this bizarre but real condition, meanwhile raising the questions about how beauty is measured.
  17. Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life
    Darius, a 15-year-old with muscular dystrophy, has never been outside of Georgia, until his 11 closest friends rent an RV and take off across the country, hoping to convince MTV’s Pimp My Ride to work on his wheelchair and raise awareness about the disease. On their long adventure they learn that life, even when imperfect, is always worth the ride.
  18. Between Heaven and Earth (Tussen Hemel en Aarde)
    In the heart of the Eurasian continent, the ancient center of the world where the Silk Road connected China to Europe, the circus is a deeply rooted cultural phenomenon. This film focuses on two circus artists, whose lifelong friendship is affected by the differing political choices they make under the dictatorship in Uzbekistan. In Russian and Uzbek.
  19. Take the Bridge
    Four young strangers meet after their failed suicide attempts land each of them in the hospital on the same day. United by circumstance, they may yet discover a reason to live. This fresh, original take on city life pays tribute to the vitality and energy of the Dominican community in Washington Heights. In English and Spanish
  20. Blackout
    In summer 2003, America experienced the largest blackout in its history–widely reported as peaceful. But in Brooklyn’s forgotten East Flatbush neighborhood, mayhem unfolded when the power shut down. This is the untold story of the blackout–a place where, as night fell, looters emerged, violence surfaced and residents feared for their lives. With Melvin Van Peebles and Jeffrey Wright.
  21. Nobel Son
    In this taut thriller spiked with droll humor, Ph.D. candidate Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) is kidnapped the night before his father Eli (Alan Rickman) will receive the Nobel Prize. When Eli refuses to pay a ransom equal to the $2 million prize, secrets, betrayal and revenge collide. With Bill Pullman, Shawn Hatosy, Danny DeVito, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Ernie Hudson and Eliza Dushku.
  22. Falafel
    Everything bad that can happen on the way to a party happens to easygoing young Tou in this chronicle of a nighttime trip though Beirut, permeated by the smell of falafel frying at neon-lit stands. Flipping between the playful youth and scenes of unexpected danger, Kammoun creates a kind of Lebanese After Hours.
  23. Forging a Nation
    Accompanied by his mother, cousins, aunts and uncles, the director retraces the steps of his Jewish ancestors, who fled Europe in the 1920’s hoping to find in Argentina the land of their dreams. This poignant film journey uses the documentary as a singular tool to explore the multifaceted ways in which the Argentine nation was built.
  24. Miss Universe 1929
    Amateur filmmaker Marci Tenczer was smitten with his cousin, Liesl Goldarbeiter and chronicled her rise from a modest childhood in Vienna to the Texas competition where she was crowned the first Miss Universe. Then Hitler upended everyone’s universe. Péter Forgács (El Perro Negro, Best Documentary, 2005 Tribeca Film Festival) continues his fascinating exploration of Europe’s private history through home movies.
  25. Vartan, LLP (Short — Ulterior Motives Program)
    Sidney Taylor heads up one of the most successful asset management funds on Wall Street. He has always escaped the pain and disappointment of life by throwing himself one hundred percent into his work. But when Sidney discovers his estranged best friend and former business partner has died of cancer, all the emotional walls he has built to protect him instantly disappear, and he is shaken to his core with regret so powerful he can barely stand it.
  26. The True Legend of Tony Vilar
    Using a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary style, this half-true, half-imagined tale is based on the story of real-life singer Tony Vilar. Born in Italy, he later moved to Argentina and became one of the most popular crooners in 1960’s Latin America, then mysteriously disappeared, leaving a faint trail apparently leading to New York City.
  27. The Gates
    In 1979, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude proposed one of the largest public art installations in history: a “golden river” of 7,500 fabric-paneled gates in Central Park. Transcending controversy, it was finally completed in 2005. Renowned documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles and long-time collaborator Antonio Ferrera chronicle the artists’ 26-year commitment to transform the winter darkness of the park into a garden of light and color.
  28. NYC Weights & Measures (Short — Archiving Identity Program)
    NYC Weights and Measures is a simple gathering of New York City street footage. Shot with a spring-wound 16mm Bolex on, above, and below the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn , this dreamy film explores the city’s many moods, even including footage of the ticker tape parade for astronaut John Glen.
  29. Palo Alto
    It’s a bittersweet homecoming when four college freshmen return to their quiet northern California town for Thanksgiving. In the tradition of American Graffiti, this first feature film by college students Brad Leong and Tony Vallone follows the adventures of four friends on one eventful night that changes everything.
  30. Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother
    An intriguing look at sex and celebrity, this richly textured documentary, filled with drag queens and Hollywood glitterati, is actually a serious movie about transgendered life. In this unique and candid documentary, Alexis reveals a more private side as she grapples with the process of sex reassignment surgery.
  31. The Education of Charlie Banks
    Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst makes his directorial debut with this potent coming-of-age drama about confronting one’s fears. Pensive, honorable college student Charlie Banks must reconcile with his past when he gets an unexpected visit from a hometown thug-who may or may not know that Charlie once ratted him out to the police. Starring Jesse Eisenberg. Winner, “Made In NY” Narrative.
  32. Where God Left His Shoes
    Frank Diaz (John Leguizamo) and his family have been living in a homeless shelter for months. But on Christmas Eve, they receive the best gift possible-the chance for an apartment. To get it, Frank needs a job, so he and his stepson go on the hunt for employment. This heartwarming tale shows the compassion of a family that comes together when all else feels lost.
  33. The Workshop
    A spiritual search for answers leads the filmmaker to a California workshop run by a spiritual leader who promotes sexual adventure — and the possible existence of aliens. In this amusing and emotional film, Jamie and his friends shed their clothes and inhibitions for a wild ride of sex, fear, love, anger, betrayal and joy.
  34. Dorme (Short — Show and Tell Program)
    Dorme (meaning “sleep”) takes us on a magical journey into the world of dreams, that mystical place our spirits go to play when our bodies go to sleep at night. A beautiful and mesmerizing fantasy film, Dorme is a celebration of the sub-conscious mind, an artistic feast for the eyes and an escape for the soul. Told without the use of words, this universal story is about a boy lulled to sleep by a captivating melody only to begin his adventure of transformation and discovery
  35. Chinese Dumplings (Short — Show and Tell Program)
    Like any kids their age, sisters Lucy, 9, and Grace, 7, would rather be playing outside after school than practicing the violin in their living room — especially since it is Grace’s birthday, and they deserve a break! Lucy goes out of her way to look out for their interests, but in the end it is younger sister Grace who surprises everyone with her actions and illuminates how, in childhood, even the smallest moments define us in big ways.
  36. Fish Miracle Sky (Short — Show and Tell Program)
    The FishMiracleSky is a short film trilogy about childhood, specifically three significant moments in the life of a five-year-old girl. In When Fishes Cry, Kate tries to save her dream world against the reality of life. In The Miracle, Kate thinks that she can change real life with her imaginary dream world methods. In Closer to the Sky, Kate opens the gates of life.
  37. For All The Marbles (Short — Show and Tell Program)
    Recess begins — the schoolyard is flooded with kids! Ten-year-old Jeff reveals his prized cat’s-eye marble in a bid to win the Universal Marble Championship. But just before his winning shot, Cricker, the schoolyard bully, grabs it and launches it to the other side of the playground, and Jeff must set off across the infamous “big-kid’s area” to retrieve it. With danger at every turn, Jeff plays his way through various games in order to claim his marble, but will he return in time to win the game?
  38. Amarelinha (Short — Show and Tell Program)
    In Amarelinha, Matteus is a six-year-old who treasures storytelling hour with his parents before bedtime. Believing that they will stop telling him bedtime stories once he learns how to read, Matteus comes up with a plan to exempt himself from reading exercises at school.
  39. Dear Lemon Lima (Short — Short Attention Span Program)
    A lonely girl with a vivid imagination struggles to plant seeds of love after her narcissistic sweetheart breaks her heart. But a chance meeting with “angel-headed dorks” Hercules and Nothing enables her to overcome her heartbreak on a serendipitous summer day. Dear Lemon Lima thrives on the notion that life is a time to celebrate our common traits and differences and inspire kindness and equality in others.
  40. Thorndike (Short — Short Attention Span Program)
    Todd, an awkward teenage boy, makes a mess of the last day he and his girlfriend get to spend together before she moves away. He enlists his friends in a harrowing plan to make it up to her but realizes that no effort will take away the melancholy of losing his first love.
  41. Miss Chinatown, U.S.A. (Short)
    Miss Chinatown, U.S.A. is the comical and touching story of a young woman who competes in one of America’s oldest ethnic beauty pageants. As Katie travels from her native Seattle to the bustling streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown, she embarks upon a journey of self-discovery — forever changing our notions of what it means to be young, female, and Asian in America.

Banner on Lamppost
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Festival Box Office at Varick & Laight Streets
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Tribeca Film Festival
Tribeca Film Festival Shorts
NY Magazine: Tribeca Shorts
Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother
Between Heaven and Earth (Tussen Hemel en Aarde)
Chinese Dumplings
Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life
Dear Lemon Lima
The Education of Charlie Banks
Fish Miracle Sky 
Forging a Nation
For All The Marbles
The Gates
In Vivid Detail
Man of Two Havanas
Memories About Sayat Nova (Vospominania o Sayat Nove)
Miss Chinatown, U.S.A.
Miss Universe 1929
A Nick In Time
Nobel Son
Normal Adolescent Behavior
NYC Weights & Measures
Palo Alto
The Pelican
Planet B-Boy
Playing the Victim
Red Shoes
Say Can You See
Super Powers
Take the Bridge
To Die a Little (Morir Un Poco)
The True Legend of Tony Vilar
Vartan, LLP
Where God Left His Shoes
The Workshop

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