25 FILMS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO AT THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
At last year’s Tribeca Film Festival I discovered two of my favorite films of the year, Alma Har’el’s Bombay Beach and Panos Cosmatos’s Beyond the Black Rainbow. I’m hoping for at least as good a track record this year, and in surveying the schedule I see more than enough potential candidates. Assuming I can successfully surmount my usual Tribeca challenge — getting into a film-festival headspace while working at home in New York — here are 25 films I’m interested in checking out. As befitting the mission of this magazine, there’s a heavy American independent focus, and I’ve also avoided films that aren’t at least receiving their U.S. premiere at Tribeca. There are also several IFP Narrative Lab films and Filmmaker “25 New Face” directors below as we always keep a close eye on our alumni.
1. Any Day Now. Travis Fine’s finely acted 9/11 drama The Space Between was one of Tribeca’s sleeper gems a few years ago, and now Fine returns with ’70s-set world premiere about gay adoption starring Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt.
2. BAM150. I have a personal interest in Michael Sladek’s documentary on the Brooklyn Academy of Music as I’ve attended its Next Wave festival for years. Back when I worked in the ’80s NYC performing arts scene, BAM’s Next Wave was the pinnacle of interdisciplinary production. Featuring interviews with Laurie Anderson, Robert Wilson and others, the film promises to be a behind-the-scenes chronicle of one of our most important arts institutions.
3. Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story. With City Island, Raymond De Felitta had one of not just Tribeca’s but American independent film’s biggest sleeper hits of recent years. Now, De Felitta returns to the festival with what is said to be a wrenching documentary about his father, filmmaking, and racism in the South.
4. Broke. We’re entering the second wave of financial-crisis documentaries, with stories rippling outwards from the obvious tales of banking malfeasance. Billy Corben’s Broke looks at destitute pro athletes, those whose competitive psychologies may have had something to do with their own post-game financial collapses.
5. Burn. Tom Putnam made Filmmaker‘s 25 New Faces list way back in 2003, and he shows up now in Tribea with his second feature doc, Burn, about firefighters battling an arson epidemic in the implosive city of Detroit. Exec produced by Denis Leary.
6. Consuming Spirits. I’ve heard particularly good buzz about this 15-years-in-the-making animation epic (pictured above) by Chris Sullivan. A world premiere, Consuming Spirits apparently mixes multiple animation styles to tell the story of “three kindred spirits working at a local newspaper in a Midwestern rust belt town.”
7. Cut. Filmmaking is the context for several films in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Booker’s Place, above, was one, and here in the Narrative category is another: Amir Naderi’s Cut. The Iranian director, often based in New York, went to Japan for this story of a filmmaker who must repay borrowed Yakuza production financing by becoming a human punching bag. I’ve been told this is a double treat for genre fans and cineastes.
8. Downeast. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s Girl Model was one of my favorite docs of 2011, so I’m looking forward to their follow-up, Downeast. Here there subject is an Italian businessman battling American red tape to open a lobster processing plant in Maine, one that will provide jobs for a group of senior citizens laid off recently by the town’s sardine canning factory.
9. Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie. I confess: I was a fan of the Morton Downey, Jr. Show. — not so much for the talk show host’s politics, but for the fascinatingly icky id that dripped off the screen after every episode. A chain-smoking loudmouth with bad skin, Downey presaged Glenn Beck, but was ultimately a much weirder, coarser figure. Can’t wait to revisit this show through Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger’s documentary.
10. Resolution. A story about a guy trying to help his best friend kick meth, Resolution is said to develop in a mysterious and entirely unexpected way. Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s blackly comic picture garnered interest when its trailer popped up on genre sites last fall.
11. First Winter. The one-line: Brooklynite hipsters find their utopian upstate community roiled by a power blackout of “apocalyptic proportions.” The film co-stars Kate Lyn Sheil, and first-time director Ben Dickenson has directed music videos for LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture. Of the American debuts there’s particular buzz on this one. Read our interview with Dickenson here.
12. The Fourth Dimension. Inspired, a train wreck or both? Vice Media’s Eddy Moretti scoured up financing for this three-part anthology film from the folks at Grolsch beer. The loose concept? Searching for the fourth dimension. Val Kilmer starring as a motivational speaker in Harmony Korine’s segment is enough to get me to the theater.
13. Francophrenia. Another of our 25 New Faces at the festival, Ian Olds collaborated with James Franco on this movie turning behind-the-scenes footage shot during the actor’s return to General Hospital into an experimental psychological thriller. It was divisive in Rotterdam, but on the pro camp of the divide were all the people I trust.
14. The Girl. It’s taken David Riker 14 years to follow up his excellent debut feature, La Ciudad, with The Girl, a story about a woman (Abbie Cornish) caught up in an immigrant smuggling operation.
15. Jack and Diane. Bradley Rust Gray — another “25” — follows up his Filmmaker magazine cover film, The Exploding Girl, with a teen-love cum female-werewolf picture. Gray has an amazing eye, and here he has two rising stars as his leads: Riley Keough and Juno Temple.
16. Journey to the Planet X. Another filmmaking film, Journey to the Planet X is a doc about homemade, no-budget, DIY, greenscreen sci-fi filmmaking. Dubbed by the programmers as “hip and heartwarming,” Josh Koury and Myles Kane’s film chronicles two Florida white collar workers who, make films in their off hours, and, like many these days, probably don’t even consider themselves as “independent filmmakers” as they tell their feature-length stories.
17. The List. Beth Murphy’s world-premiering doc finds a new angle on the Iraq War. Specifically, she looks at Iraqi citizens targeted by radical militias for their assistance to the American military and the efforts of one U.S. soldier on their behalf.
18. Nancy, Please. Andrew Seman’s IFP Narrative Lab film deals with two themes near but not especially dear to my heart: procrastination and blame. Co-starring Eleonore Hendricks (The Pleasure of Being Robbed), Nancy, Please is about a Yale graduate student (Will Rogers) unable to finish his dissertation on Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit until he retrieves a note-filled paperback from his inexplicably malicious ex-roommate.
19. Off Label. Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s evocative and gorgeous October Country landed them on our “25 New Faces” list a few years ago. Off Label is their follow-up, a look at the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry and its creation of our misdiagnosed and over-medicated America.
20. Rubberneck. Alex Karpovsky — of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture and Girls and, before that, our “25” list for his genre-bending The Hole Story — stars and directs in what the festival calls a “slow-burn psychosexual character study.”
21. Side by Side. Chris Kenneally worked for years in the New York post-production scene as a supervisor before he stepped behind the camera for his first feature, Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating. For Side by Side, a look at the effect of digital technology and cinematography, he’s joined by Keanu Reeves, who not only produces but does the on-camera interviews with an array of top directors and d.p.’s.
22. Una Noche. Premiering late in the Berlin Film Festival, Una Noche is an IFP Narrative Lab project you’ve read a bit about on our site. Its director, Lucy Mulloy, is fiercely talented; her Una Noche is a visually dynamic, Havana-shot tale of a brother, a sister and the friend whose desire to escape the island threatens them all.
23. Future Weather. Another IFP Narrative Lab film, Jenny Deller’s presents her well-crafted drama about three generations of women through the viewpoint of a young girl for whom the study of science is both a fascination and a coping mechanism.
24. Turn off the Lights. Again, I’ve heard good buzz about this world-premiering Romanian documentary following three young men exiting a Roma prison and coping with guilt, violence and the possibility of recidivism.
25. Graceland. Another world premiere, Graceland is the debut feature from Ron Morales, a Philippines-born New Yorker representing the new wave of Filipino genre moviemaking. Kidnapping, child prostitution and illegal organ trafficking all are contained within what is said to be a gripping “wrong man” thriller. The film is the second feature from Ron Morales, who has worked extensively in New York as a key grip.