Tribeca ’17: Director Lana Wilson on Her Wise, Empathetic Suicide Prevention Doc, The Departure

The Departure

One of the major discoveries of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Lana Wilson’s The Departure is a beautiful, wise and deeply empathetic immersion into one fascinating character’s unique approach to suicide prevention. Ittetsu Nemoto is a former punk rocker turned Buddhist priest who, in quietly wrenching group sessions, counsels the suicidal while facing down his own demons. Working in a small, remote temple in Japan, he constructs spare, philosophical rituals for his patients and then, separately, bonds with them in more personal, emotionally intimate ways. Following Nemoto both within his practice and outside of it, The Departure initially grabs hold due to the sureness of its elegant, melancholy tone. Despite having a wife and son, there’s a loneliness to the…  Read more


“We Need to Stop Patting Ourselves on the Back”: Speakeasy Spotlight at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival’s 20th Anniversary Edition

S. Leo Chiang, Patricia Benabe, Yance Ford and Whitney Dow at the #DocsSoWhite 2.0 panel (Photo by Colin Huth)

There was much reason for celebration at the 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (April 6-9) down in Durham, North Carolina. The state had just (kinda sorta) repealed the ridiculous bathroom bill — which had had me scrambling to cover all the queer films I could find at the 2016 fest — and this year’s 20th anniversary inspired artistic director Sadie Tillery to create “DoubleTake,” a wide-ranging retro program featuring 19 films, one from each year of the festival’s history. This diverse selection included everything from Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen’s 2001 Benjamin Smoke, to Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras’s 2003 Flag Wars, to Gary Hustwit’s 2007 Helvetica, and more. But the one aspect of the fest that most…  Read more


Watch: “Mulholland Dr., The Essential Lynch”

What makes Mulholland Drive the quintessential David Lynch film? In the run up to the return of Twin Peaks, Leigh Singer digs into Lynch’s 2001 masterwork, split-screen comparing and contrasting it with the entirety of his career to demonstrate how it enfolds his many preoccupations and characteristic images.


“If You Can Cut the Boring Scenes Out, That Saves Time”: Juho Kuosmanen on The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki

Jarkko Lahti in The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki

Juho Kuosmanen’s first feature, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, is a modest-seeming film that hits all of its marks with unusual precision, following featherweight boxer Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) in the two weeks leading up to a big fight against American champ Davey Moore. Mäki is nervous and evasive, slacking on his training and running away to the distraction of his maybe-fiance. Throughout the film, he’s trailed by a documentary crew (a detail based on reality) that repeatedly stages faux-verite scenes of Mäki in training, meeting financiers, et al. — in a sly way, Kuosmanen is almost congratulating himself on the high degree of period verisimilitude he’s achieved by contrasting it with the fakery of Flaherty-rooted documentary practices. The film is out…  Read more


Tribeca 2017 Critic’s Notebook: Performance Anxiety

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip to Spain

Ever searching for an identity, the Tribeca Film Festival returned — for a 16th time last week — to Midtown, the Upper West Side, Chelsea and, yes, the neighborhood for which it’s named. These days the festival never opens with a genuinely great (and thematically appropriate) film like Paul Greengrass’s United 93 or a goofy overstuffed blockbuster like J.J. Abrams’s Mission Impossible III, but usually with a low-key doc centered on iconic New York stuff: comedy (Bao Nguyen’s 2015 SNL doc opener Live from New York!), fashion (Andrew Rossi’s The First Monday in May, which opened last year’s edition) and music — the Nas doc which opened the 2014 edition or Chris Perkel’s Clive Davis: The Soundtrack to Our Lives, which opened this year’s. David Leitner…  Read more


Tribeca 2017: Alon Benari on the VR Thriller, Broken Night

Broken Night

Currently running at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade, Broken Night is a psychological thriller featuring a quarrelling couple (Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola), an intruder and a handgun. Distilling these elements into 11 taut minutes, the piece throws viewers not just into the action but into the unsteady point-of-view of the short’s protagonist, the wife played by Mortimer, who is trying to reconstruct the events of one violent evening for an investigating police detective. Using a VR headset and browser-based player, Broken Night allows viewers to slip in and out of the wife’s POV, making for her character the various choices she herself can’t remember whether she made or not. As Alon Benari, who, along with Tal Zubalsky and…  Read more


“Triangle Below Canada”: On Opening Night, the Tribeca Film Festival Marches North

Aretha Franklin at Radio City Music Hall, Opening Night 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

In the course of 85 years, the “Showplace of the Nation,” Radio City Music Hall, has hosted countless spectaculars, but few I suspect as geriatric as Wednesday night’s revue of strutting septuagenarians revisiting their classic hits from the AM radio era — Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, the late Maurice White (in the person of what’s left of Earth, Wind, and Fire), Carly Simon and Aretha Franklin. A few youngsters performed too, including Jennifer Hudson and Kenny G. You certainly wouldn’t mistake this for SXSW. Call it North by Northeast. (With a tip of the bowler to Hitch.) That would explain the choice of Andrew Cuomo, in full campaigning-for-something mode, to kick off the evening, the opening night of the 16th…  Read more


IFP Announces 10 Projects Selected for 2017 Screen Forward Labs

Angry Black Women

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), Filmmaker‘s publisher, announced today the ten projects taking part in its third annual Screen Forward Lab for story-driven, serialized projects. Among the projects, which span web series, VR and cross-platform storytelling, are works set in the world of extreme sports, gentrified Brooklyn, and a youth rehab center. Characters include young scouts and their scoutmasters, a gay-curious heterosexual woman, and angry black women — the latter in the series, Angry Black Women. Screen Forward Lab creators begin their program today with five days of workshops and seminars at the Made in New York Media Center, where they will meet with Lab Leaders including Filmmaker 25 New Face Nadia Manzoor (Shugs and Fats), producer Jordana Mollick (Hello,…  Read more



An audience at the Ragtag Cinema (Photo by Billie Stock, courtesy of Ragtag Film Society)

Projecting Outside the Echo Chamber

In the past decade, I have screened thousands of documentary festival submissions. That amounts to countless hours of observing — or, more often than not, being told about — the horrifying effects of war, discrimination, depression, censorship, animal slaughter, plastic bottles, shoddy reporting, asbestos and…  Read more

Apr 13, 2017

VOD Picks

  • La La Land Drama Musical Romance
    Official site
    4/25/17 MOD VOD
  • Jackie Biography Drama
    20th Century Fox
    Official site
    3/7/17 MOD VOD


Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in A Quiet Passion

“The Language is Being Destroyed”: Terence Davies on A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion is a film of many firsts for Terence Davies: his first biopic, his first all-digital-feature, and — unexpectedly — his first work which, for a time, could pass for a comedy. Davies introduces Emily Dickinson as a young girl, spends the metaphorical first…  Read more

on Apr 13, 2017


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