The Tribeca Film Festival is one of the most glamorous film events to happen this side of Park City.
From April 22 – May 2, the festival will pitch its tents downtown and offer a wide array of independent films including documentaries, narrative features and shorts, not to mention the requisite parties, talks and swagbags.
With single tickets sales beginning April 13 (for AmEx cardholders), April 18 (for downtown residents), and April 19 for the hoi polloi, it’s about time you started scoping out the offerings before you see the red tents and tell yourself yet again how you meant to get tickets this time around. And while getting swagbags is something you’ll have to manage on your own, at least we can help you get an idea for what’s playing. And if you’re a couch potato film buff, you can still keep up with the movers and shakers with a Virtual Pass that lets you access the festival without leaving your home.
Of the many many many films being screened, all of which are browseable on the Tribeca Film Festival website (which requires a simple registration to access), here are a few films that caught my eye. They may have caught my eye because they sounded interesting, starred or were directed by people I find interesting even if in a dark way, involved subject matter that I find significant and would provide detailed and easily digestible information on that subject, involved subject matter that I find repugnant but am somehow still attracted to, or seemed to guarantee screenfuls of beautifully shot footage:
American Mystic – Feature Documentary directed by Alex Mar. “Set against a vivid backdrop of American rural landscapes, Alex Mar’s meditative documentary artfully weaves together the stories of three young Americans exploring alternative religion: a pagan priestess in California mining country, a Spiritualist in upstate New York, and a Native American father and sundancer in South Dakota, all yearning for fulfilling spirituality in disparate but often strikingly similar ways.”
Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film – Feature Documentary directed by Alex Gibney. Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) takes an in-depth look at New York governor and “Sheriff of Wall Street” Eliot Spitzer, whom many believed was on his way to becoming president. Shockingly, Spitzer’s meteoric rise turned into a precipitous fall when he was caught seeing prostitutes. And as the Sheriff fell, so did the financial markets…. With unique access to friends and enemies of the ex-governor, this documentary explores the hidden contours of this tale of hubris, sex, and power.
Missed Connections – Short Documentary by Mary Robertson. “A momentary meeting becomes a search for love in Missed Connections.”
Open House – a horror or psychological thriller by Andrew Paquin, featuring cameos by Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. “Brian Geraghty gives a haunting performance as prim and taciturn David, forced for years to watch over his sexually predatory partner Lila and her violent urges. David longs for human connection and a less violent existence, and when a would-be victim becomes a chance at redemption, he is torn between his humanity and the only life he’s ever known.”
Bastard – Short Narrative directed by Kirsten Dunst. “A couple in crisis find their way to a desert motel.” Starring Lukas Haas.
Kobe Doin’ Work – Feature Documentary by Spike Lee: With unprecedented access and utilizing 30 cameras, Spike Lee brings the audience onto the court with superstar Kobe Bryant as his Lakers battle the Spurs in a game with major playoff implications.
The Killer Inside Me – Narrative Feature by Michael Winterbottom. “Casey Affleck is Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff whose continuous inner monologue reveals a savage sociopath hidden behind his accommodating Texan smile. When his escalating entanglements with a local prostitute and his prying fiancée back him into a corner, his urges will erupt in shocking violence. Michael Winterbottom’s subversive film noir is adapted from cult pulp author Jim Thompson’s novel. With Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Bill Pullman, and Elias Koteas.”
No Woman, No Cry – Feature Documentary by Christy Turlington Burns. “More than half a million women each year die from preventable complications during pregnancy or childbirth. In her gripping directorial debut, Christy Turlington Burns shares the powerful stories of pregnant women in four parts of the world, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States.”
Edgar – Narrative Short directed by Fabian Busch. “Recent retiree Edgar feels unneeded by society until he hatches a plan to change his life.”
Climate of Change – Feature Documentary directed by Brian Hill. “A group of 13-year-olds in India rally against the use of plastics. A renaissance man in Africa teaches villagers to harness solar power. Self-described “hillbillies” in Appalachia battle the big business behind strip mining. Tilda Swinton beautifully narrates this rich and inspiring documentary—from the producers of An Inconvenient Truth—about a world of regular people taking action in the fight to save our environment. Executive produced by Participant Media and the Alliance for Climate Protection.”
Monogamy – Narrative Feature directed by Dana Adam Shapiro starring Rashida Jones and Chris Messina. “Exhibitionism, voyeurism, jealousy, lust. Brooklyn wedding photographer Theo’s (Chris Messina) side business shooting surveillance-style photos of clients on the sly takes an unexpected turn—and creates a rift with his fiancée (Rashida Jones)—when he’s hired by a provocative mystery woman (Meital Dohan). The first narrative feature from Oscar®-nominated director Dana Adam Shapiro (Murderball), Monogamy effectively fuses an absorbing mystery-thriller and a taut relationship drama.”
Into Eternity – Feature Documentary by Michael Madsen. (This caught my eye because it reminds me of John D’Agata’s book About A Mountain, which I love). “Three miles below the earth, the people of Finland are constructing an enormous tomb to lay to rest their share of humans’ 300,000 tons of nuclear waste. To avoid disaster, it must remain untouched for at least 100,000 years. In this poetic, hauntingly beautiful, and thought-provoking doc, Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen ponders how to warn future civilizations that the buried treasure of our nuclear era—unlike the pyramids and great tombs of pharaohs—must never, ever be discovered.”
Road Movie – Narrative Feature by Dev Benegal. “Loath to take over the family hair-oil business, young Vishnu jumps at the chance to drive his uncle’s beat-up Chevy truck across India to its new owner. The young runaway, wandering old entertainer, and beautiful woman he picks up along the way make for a magical journey that will change Vishnu’s life. With the sumptuous landscape of India as his canvas, director Dev Benegal paints a delightfully original road movie.”
Saturday Night – Feature Documentary directed by James Franco. “Saturday Night Live has been a New York icon for decades, but few have witnessed what it actually takes to pull off an episode. Actor/director James Franco settles confidently behind the camera and into corners of cubicles and conference rooms to bring unprecedented access to the cast’s vigorous marathon of comedy creation. With John Malkovich hosting the episode, Franco sculpts an intimate look at the making of one hilarious episode of SNL.”
Every Day – Narrative Feature directed by Richard Levine. “Meet Ned. His live-in father-in-law is putting serious strains on Ned’s marriage. He’s having a hard time adjusting to raising an independent teenager. His job as a TV writer is unfulfilling, and late nights with a sexy coworker are only complicating matters…. Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, Eddie Izzard, and Ezra Miller star in this eloquent and honest look at an everyday family dealing with life’s little curveballs.”
My Trip to Al-Qaeda – Feature Documentary by Alex Gibney. “Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) collaborates with Lawrence Wright to bring Wright’s titular one-man play to the screen. With equal parts Spalding Gray and An Inconvenient Truth, My Trip to Al Qaeda chronicles fundamentalist Islam’s rise to power and explores Wright’s struggle to maintain his objectivity as a journalist writing about Islamic terror.”
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work – Feature Documentary by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. I can’t believe someone’s made a film about this, and I feel like it will be something like The Eyes of Tammy Faye which I liked a lot. “Joan Rivers is the undisputed queen of American comedy, and at 76 years old, with a career spanning five decades, she shows no sign of slowing down. Following Rivers over the course of a year, A Piece of Work reveals the fascinating combination of vulnerability and irreverence behind the public figure in this endlessly entertaining, quintessential profile of an icon.”
The festival will also be providing a series of talks called Tribeca Talks, the schedule of which has been announced. While the festival offers “industry talks,” the most interesting seem to be the post-screening Q&As and discussions including a tenth anniversary showing of the film Memento. Following the screening the stars, Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano, along with screenwriter Jonathan Nolan will talk with Dr. Suzanne Corkin, a professor of behavioral science at MIT, about memory, science and the big screen. James Franco will show and discuss his documentary Saturday Night, about the show “Saturday Night Live,” with Lorne Michaels and some cast members. And a Q&A will follow the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, with Joan Rivers and the directors.