Thanks to the troubled economy, the Tribeca Film Festival was significantly smaller than in previous years. While audiences were still eager to participate (what better way to escape problems than by spending a couple of hours at the movies?), the 2009 Festival offered fewer films, fewer venues, fewer screenings, making it much more difficult to gain entry to screenings and events.
Although I was shut out of some of the films on my “must see” list, I managed to attend some screenings, panel discussions and events, and my favorite film, City Island, was also the winner of the Heineken Audience Award. Here’s what I saw in alphabetical order. The descriptions below are taken from the Festival’s Web site.
Antoine was born 100 days premature and became blind from the effects of his incubator. Now five years old, he uses a mini boom microphone to discover and capture the sounds around him. Through this visually striking portrait, expertly crafted by Laura Bari, we share both the everyday and imaginary worlds Antoine lives in and learn how he overcomes adversity by creating his own alternative universe of beauty.
- Camera Roll (for Taylor)
A camera roll city cine-poem, filmed in Brooklyn in the vicinity of the Gowanus Canal. Shot on a single roll of 16mm film and made as a filmic postcard for a distant friend, Camera Roll captures a Brooklyn neighborhood’s beauty and dereliction, industry and atmosphere, and the sounds of the elevated train rumbling in the distance.
- Chop Off
Chop Off exposes the dark, fearful recesses of the human psyche by filming the body modification of performance artist R.K. Literally risking “life and limb,” R.K.’s body is his medium, and amputation is his art. The very act of filming him often stimulates a cascading range of emotions, from disgust to fear to dread.
- City Island
Vinnie’s been secretly taking acting classes, his daughter’s moonlighting as a stripper, his son’s got a weighty fetish, and mom’s eye is wandering… the Rizzos might get along a lot better if they weren’t keeping so many secrets. Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer, and Alan Arkin star in this smart and poignant dysfunctional-family comedy, set in unassuming City Island.
Inspired by the Japanese word for power line, densen is a musical voyage through photographs from Tokyo, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, Milan, and Buenos Aires.
- Don McKay
Don McKay (Thomas Haden Church) should have followed the old cliché: “You can’t go home again.” After 25 years, he returns for the first time to his hometown at the out-of-the-blue bidding of his cancer-stricken ex-girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue). But a lot of time has passed, and an old secret crashes into new ones in this darkly comic thriller, also featuring Melissa Leo.
- An Englishman in New York
John Hurt astounds as he revisits the role that made him a star (in 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant): real-life writer, actor, and gay icon Quentin Crisp. This smart, sensitive drama—marked by Hurt’s bravura handling of Crisp’s razor-tongued wit—focuses on the flamboyant 72-year-old star’s move to New York in 1981, and the fallout from a reckless comment about the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. A Leopardrama Film for ITV1. Executive producers are Joey Attawia, Susie Field, and James Burstall.
- Entre Nos
Adoring mother Mariana (talented codirector Paola Mendoza) has toted her two children from Colombia to New York to indulge her husband’s whim. But when he abruptly abandons the family, she’ll have to rely on her own imagination and courage—and that of her remarkable kids (breakthroughs Sebastian Villada and Laura Montana)—to survive insurmountable odds during their first summer in the United States.
- Hysterical Psycho
In this side-splitting horror send-up, a theater troupe takes a trip to a country cabin, but its nearby lake is full of lunar radiation, and one of the troupe members is already straight-up crazy. Put them together and you get one psycho thespian! Full of bloody, fun-filled kills, a deaf-mute chick, inventive animation, and some big boobs, Hysterical Psycho is a wild trip.
- influenza/Composition II (chrome square)
A sticker project translated into animation, this film uses shiny square stickers as miniature, abstract urban screens that quietly reflect the city life on their blurry surface. In the mid-1990s filmmaker Jeroen Jongeleen discovered in stickers a simple and cheap means of functioning in public.
- Love the Beast
Eric Bana’s directorial debut is a love story. The object of the actor’s affection? A Ford XB Falcon Coupe, his “beast,” the car he’s had since he was 15. Tracing Bana’s lifelong obsession with cars to his participation in the ultimate auto race—the five-day Targa Tasmania—this impassioned doc is fueled by family, friendship, and an insatiable lust for life.
- A Matter of Size
In this touching, lighthearted comedy, an overweight, underemployed chef and three close friends abandon their weight-loss group to pursue an activity for which girth is a virtue: sumo wrestling. While training, they discover the soul of sumo, realizing that—fat or thin—love and success will only come from being true to themselves.
A journey into the 68 stations of the Montreal subways.
- My Last Five Girlfriends
Based on the international best seller On Love by Alain de Botton, this delightful romantic comedy explores with delicious wit and whimsy just how modern urban relationships go wrong. Surveying the wreckage of his last five relationships, thirtysomething Duncan (Brendan Patricks) concludes that love is a battleground where only the fittest survive.
- My Life in Ruins
From Nia Vardalos, writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, comes the hilarious comedy My Life in Ruins. Georgia (Nia Vardalos) has lost her kefi (Greek for “mojo”). Discouraged by her lack of direction in life, she works as a travel guide, leading a ragtag group of tourists as she tries to show them the beauty of her native Greece. While opening their eyes to an exotic foreign land, she too begins to see things in new ways-finding her kefi in the process.
In this fresh and colorful lovable loser tale, Henry has spent most of his life trying to blend in. When his seemingly normal life turns upside down, his friend convinces him to move to Spain and open a restaurant. But before he can break free of the mundane, he gets sidelined caring for his mentally unstable mother, running into a lost-soul feminist who does performance art in a strip club, and a big bag of steroids.
Executive produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Steven Soderbergh, this astonishing doc travels to the dark heart of one of the world’s most sinister industries—the child sex trade. Beginning her journey infiltrating brothels in South Korea and Thailand, director Libby Spears soon discovers that the United States is a major player in the human trafficking racket and turns her attention to the homeland. Featuring original artwork by Yoshitomo Nara.
- Racing Dreams
What Little League is to baseball, go-karting is to auto racing. Oscar®-nominated director Marshall Curry (Street Fight) follows the exhilarating and emotional journeys of three top racers competing for the national championship. Three adolescents and their families must discover if they have the talent and dedication—and sponsorship dollars—to one day become NASCAR superstars.
- The Swimsuit Issue
What begins as a joke turns into a new shot at glory for a group of over-the-hill athletes who decide to form Sweden’s only all-male synchronized swimming team. The less they’re taken seriously, the more determined they are to win the world championship in this fun, feel-good comedy about friendship and family.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In shell-ebration of their 25th anniversary, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will make a totally radical appearance along with their sidekick April at the Drive-In’s giant pizza party and screening of their 1990 film. To welcome the Turtles, the plaza will be decorated with glow-in-the-dark manhole covers. Families can climb inside the all-new Party Wagon, a mobile treasure trove based on the original Party Van. Kids can get their faces painted Turtle-style, take pictures at the photo booth, and pick up new moves with karate demos!
- A Time and a Time
A Time and a Time is a short film made entirely from archive footage shot in three specific locations in Bristol over the past 100 years. Films and photographs across time are combined to create new scenes where contemporary shoppers mingle with people that walked that same street a century earlier.
Finding true love is easier than ever thanks to a bio-technological implant called the TiMER, which counts down to the exact time people meet their soul mates. Love-starved Oona (Emma Caulfield, TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is pushing 30, but her TiMER hasn’t even started counting down yet. What’s worse, she’s falling for a guy (John Patrick Amedori, Gossip Girl) who is set to meet his true love in four months. Newcomer Jac Schaeffer crafts a smart romantic comedy that leaves behind the burning question… would you want to know?
- Trailer Trash
A skewed take on film detritus: 35mm movie trailers are rescued from the trash and affected by hand and digitally, holding up a funhouse mirror to the industry of expectations.
- Without You
Inspired by a poem by Josef Albers, Without You is a visual exploration of London’s industrial suburbia, focusing on an imaginary circle drawn at a 10-mile radius from Charing Cross, where the natural and man-made environments lie side-by-side in harmonic indifference.