Tribeca Film Festival Announces 2015 World Narrative, Documentary Competition and Viewpoints Selections
The Tribeca Film Festival today announced the first half of its 2015 slate — 51 of the 97 films, including both its World Narrative and Documentary competitions. Nearly one quarter of this year’s festival directors are women, including quite a few directors with titles anticipated by Filmmaker readers. These include cinematographer Reed Morano’s directorial debut, Meadowland; Pamela Romanowsky’s adaptation of Stephen Elliot’s true-crime memoir, The Adderall Diaries; Rikki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s latest, In My Father’s House; Vanessa Hope’s look at China’s role on the world stage through the story of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and his adopted daughter, All Eyes and Ears; and Natalia Leite’s debut feature, Bare.
Dude-directed titles of early interest include Andrew Renzi’s Richard Gere-starring Franny; Zachary Treitz’s Civil War drama Men Go to Battle, co-written by Kate-Lyn Sheil; Dagur Kari’s latest, Virgin Mountain; 25 New Face Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s Havana Motor Club; the Eleonore Hendricks-starring Come Down Molly, directed by Gregory Kohn; and, returning to Tribeca after his gory Summer of Blood triumph, Onur Tukel with Applesauce. But, honestly, we’re still digesting this list, printed in full below.
World Narrative Competition
The Adderall Diaries, directed and written by Pamela Romanowsky. (USA) – World Premiere. Elliott (James Franco), a once-successful novelist inflicted with writer’s block and an Adderall addiction strives to escape his problems by delving into the world of a high-profile murder case. Amber Heard, Ed Harris, and Cynthia Nixon co-star in this adaptation of Elliott’s best-selling memoir.
Bridgend, directed by Jeppe Rønde, co-written by Jeppe Rønde, Torben Bech, and Peter Asmussen. (Denmark) – North American Premiere. Sara (Hannah Murray) and her dad arrive in a town haunted by a spate of teenage suicides. When she falls in love with Jamie (Josh O’Connor), she becomes prey to the depression that threatens to engulf them all. Jeppe Rønde’s debut is based on the real-life Welsh county borough of Bridgend, which has recorded at least 79 suicides since 2007.
Dixieland, directed and written by Hank Bedford. (USA) – World Premiere. In the hot lazy days of a Mississippi summer two star-crossed lovers, a recently released ex-con (Chris Zylka) and an aspiring stripper (Riley Keough), become trapped in a downward spiral of crime and obsessive love, as they try to ditch their small town lives. Featuring an impressive performance by Faith Hill.
Franny, directed and written by Andrew Renzi. (USA) – World Premiere. Richard Gere delivers a bravura performance as the title character, a rich eccentric who worms his way into the lives of a deceased friend’s young daughter (Dakota Fanning) and her new husband (Theo James). The narrative feature debut of writer-director Andrew Renzi, Franny is a warm and winsome drama about the pangs of the past, and the families we choose.
Meadowland, directed by Reed Morano, written by Chris Rossi. (USA) – World Premiere. Sarah and Phil’s son goes missing, shattering their life together and forcing each to find their own way to cope. Cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano presents a masterfully crafted contemplation on a relationship strained to the breaking point. Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson capture the unraveling emotions with remarkable power, alongside Kevin Corrigan, John Leguizamo, Elizabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, and Merritt Wever.
Men Go to Battle, directed and written by Zachary Treitz, co-written by Kate Lyn Sheil. (USA) – World Premiere. Kentucky, 1861. Francis and Henry Mellon depend on each other to keep their unkempt estate afloat as winter encroaches. After Francis takes a casual fight too far, Henry ventures off in the night, leaving each of them to struggle through the wartime on their own.
Necktie Youth, directed and written by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer. (Netherlands, South Africa) – North American Premiere. Jabz and September are two twenty-something suburbanites drifting through a day of drugs, sex, and philosophizing in their privileged Johannesburg neighborhood, ill-equipped to handle a tragedy that has interrupted the hollowness of their daily lives. Using rich black and white photography, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer paints a raw, unique portrait of self-obsessed youth facing adulthood in an increasingly divided city. In Afrikaans, English, isiZulu with subtitles.
The Survivalist, directed and written by Stephen Fingleton. (Northern Ireland, UK) – World Premiere. Self-preservation takes on a new level of meaning in this organic post-apocalyptic drama, where the only way to get food is to farm it. A man is threatened when two starving women stumble across his cabin and demand to stay. Each new mouth to feed strains the limits of what the farm can produce and diminishes their chance for survival.
Sworn Virgin (Vergine Giurata), directed and written by Laura Bispuri, co-written by Francesca Manieri. (Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Switzerland) – North American Premiere. As a young woman living within the confines of a Northern Albanian village, Hana longs to escape the shackles of womanhood, and live her life as a man. To do so she must take an oath to eternally remain a virgin. Years later, as Mark, she leaves home for the first time to confront a new set of circumstances, leading her to contemplate the possibility of undoing her vow. In Albanian, Italian with subtitles.
Viaje, directed and written by Paz Fábrega. (Costa Rica) –World Premiere. After meeting at a party, Luciana and Pedro spark up a spontaneous rendezvous when Luciana accompanies Pedro to a national forest on a work trip. Eschewing the fraudulent nature of traditional relationships, the pair explores the beauty in the nature that surrounds them as they indulge in the passions of their encounter and navigate the various meanings of commitment. In Spanish with subtitles.
Virgin Mountain, directed and written by Dagur Kári. (Iceland, Denmark) – North American Premiere. Fúsi is a mammoth of a man who at 43-years-old is still living at home with his mother. Shy and awkward, he hasn’t quite learned how to socialize with others, leaving him as an untouchable inexperienced virgin. That is until his family pushes him to join a dance class, where he meets the equally innocent but playful Sjöfn. In Icelandic with subtitles.
Wednesday 04:45 (Tetari 04:45), directed and written by Alexis Alexiou. (Germany, Greece, Israel) – World Premiere. A life’s work becomes a prison for jazz club owner Stelios when a shady Romanian gangster calls in his debts. This gripping, underworld drama is a parable on the perils of accumulated debt, and a depiction of the descent of a mostly decent man. Director Alexis Alexiou perfectly balances the complex emotions that drive a man to take the most drastic measures available. In Greek with subtitles.
World Documentary Feature Competition
Autism in Love, directed by Matt Fuller. (USA) – World Premiere. What does it mean to love and be loved? With remarkable compassion, director Matt Fuller examines the reality of autistic adulthood and shows how the members of this often-misunderstood community cope with the challenge of keeping romance alive. Autism in Love is a celebration of accepting the differences in others, and in ourselves.
The Birth of Saké, directed by Erik Shirai. (USA) – World Premiere. Traditional and labor-intensive, the production of Saké has changed very little over the centuries. Erik Shirai’s love song to the artisans who have dedicated their lives to carrying on this increasingly rare artform follows the round-the-clock process for six straight months, offering a rare glimpse into a family-run brewery that’s been operating for over 100 years. In Japanese with subtitles.
Democrats, directed and written by Camilla Nielsson. (Denmark). – North American Premiere. In the wake of Robert Mugabe’s highly criticized 2008 presidential win, Zimbabwe’s first constitutional committee was created in an effort to transition the country away from its authoritarian leadership. With unprecedented access to the two political rivals overseeing the committee, this riveting, firsthand account of a country’s fraught first steps towards democracy plays at once like an intimate political thriller and unlikely buddy film. In English, Shona with subtitles.
Havana Motor Club, directed and written by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt. (Cuba, USA) – World Premiere. Reforms have offered opportunity in Cuba but the children of the Revolution are unsure of the best route forward. For a half-dozen drag racers, this means last-minute changes to their beloved American muscle cars, as they prepare for the first sanctioned race in Cuba since 1960. Punctuated by a lively Cuban soundtrack, Havana Motor Club offers a fascinating glimpse at the resilience and ingenuity of the competitive spirit. In Spanish with subtitles.
In My Father’s House, directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, co-written by Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, and Pax Wassermann. (USA) – World Premiere. After moving into his childhood home on Chicago’s South Side, Grammy Award–winning rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith hesitantly sets out to reconnect with his estranged father, the man who abandoned him over twenty years ago. In My Father’s House is a stirring, multigenerational chronicle of Che’s sincere but often-fraught journey to build a future for his own family by reconnecting with his traumatic past.
In Transit, co-directed by Albert Maysles, Nelson Walker, Lynn True, David Usui, and Ben Wu. (USA) – World Premiere. The Empire Builder is America’s busiest long-distance train route, running from Chicago to Seattle. Throughout these corridors sit runaways, adventurers, and loners – a myriad of passengers waiting to see what their journey holds. A touching and honest observation, co-directed by the iconic documentarian Albert Maysles, In Transit breathes life into the long commute, and contemplates the unknowns that lie at our final destination.
Indian Point, directed and written by Ivy Meeropol. (USA) – World Premiere. Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant looms just 35 miles from Times Square. With over 50 million people living in close proximity to the aging facility, its continued operation has generated controversy for the surrounding community. In the brewing fight for clean energy and the catastrophic possibilities of complacency, director Ivy Meeropol weaves a startling portrait of our uncertain nuclear future.
Palio, directed by Cosima Spender, written by John Hunt. (UK, Italy) – World Premiere. In the world’s oldest horse race, the Palio, taking bribes and fixing races threatens to extinguish the passion for the sport itself. Giovanni, unversed in corruption, challenges his former mentor, who dominates the game. What ensues is a thrilling battle, filled with the intoxicating drama that is at the center of Italian tradition. In Italian with subtitles.
Song of Lahore, directed by Andy Schocken and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. (USA, Pakistan) – World Premiere. Until the late 1970s, the Pakistani city of Lahore was world-renowned for its music. Following the ban of music under Sharia law, many artists were forced to abandon their life’s work. Song of Lahore turns the spotlight on a stalwart group of lifelong musicians who continue to play despite their circumstances. They end up attracting listeners from all over the world. In English, Punjabi, and Urdu with subtitles.
Thank You for Playing, co-directed and co-written by David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall. (USA) – World Premiere. For the past four years, Ryan and Amy Greene have been working on That Dragon, Cancer, a videogame about their son Joel’s fight against that disease. Following the family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall create a moving testament to the joy and heartbreak of raising a terminally ill child.
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, directed and written by Nick Berardini. (USA) – World Premiere. Do you blame the technology or the person wielding it? With damaging reports of taser-related deaths at the hands of police officers, this conundrum spurs a carefully constructed argument that tasers are in fact lethal, discrediting claims by Taser International that stun guns save lives. Yet more than 17,000 police departments in the United States continue to use the electric rifle.
Very Semi-Serious, directed by Leah Wolchok. (USA) – World Premiere. The New Yorker is the benchmark for the single-panel cartoon. This light-hearted and sometimes poignant look at the art and humor of the iconic drawings shows why they have inspired and even baffled us for decades. Very Semi-Serious is a window into the minds of cartooning legends and hopefuls, including editor Bob Mankoff, shedding light onto their how their humor evolves.
All Eyes and Ears, directed and written by Vanessa Hope. (China, USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. When former Utah governor Jon Huntsman was appointed United States Ambassador to China, the charming career politician arrived at his new post with his entire family—including his adopted Chinese daughter, Gracie. Huntsman’s diplomatic struggles and triumphs are explored in the broader context of China’s relationship with the rest of the world, and intersected with Gracie’s personal experience living in China as a Chinese-American. In Mandarin, Cantonese, English, with subtitles.
Applesauce, directed and written by Onur Tukel. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. TFF alumnus Onur Tukel plays a husband who innocently reveals on talk radio the worst thing he’s ever done. Though his gaffe never makes it on air, it sets off a chain of hilariously uncontrollable events that draw his wife and another couple into an uneasy mixture of infidelities, confessions, and severed body parts.
Bad Hurt, directed and written by Mark Kemble, co-written by Jamieson Stern. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Life for the Kendalls has been burdened by grief and claustrophobia. Faced with caring for one child with special needs and another with PTSD, the family struggles for a sense of stability at home in their Staten Island hamlet. When a secret from the past is revealed, it threatens to tear them apart.
Bare, directed and written by Natalia Leite. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Sarah’s (Dianna Agron) mundane life in a Nevada desert town is turned upside down with the arrival of Pepper (Paz de la Huerta), a mysterious female drifter, who leads her into a life of seedy strip clubs and illicit drugs. Their passion inspires Sarah to break free of her past and seek out a new life of her own.
Being 14 (À 14 ans), directed and written by Hélène Zimmer. (France). – International Premiere, Narrative. Adopting an observational style, Being 14 captures all the secrets, trials, and anguish of adolescence, as experienced by best friends Sarah, Louise, and Jade in their final year of middle school. The narrative plays like a documentary in each true-to-life scene; the camera is witness to their lives unfolding, as it unobtrusively records the moments of a year, after which everything will change. In French with subtitles
Come Down Molly, directed and written by Gregory Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In this expressionist odyssey exploring the lonely side of entering adulthood, struggling new mother Molly (Eléonore Hendricks) joins her old high school group of guy friends at a secluded mountain home. Amidst tears, laughter, and mushrooms, they connect with nature, one another, and themselves.
A Courtship, directed by Amy Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Amy Kohn’s fascinating documentary offers a peek into the practice of Christian courtship, wherein a woman hands over the responsibility of finding a husband to her parents and the will of God. Such is Kelly’s path, enlisting her adopted spiritual family to find her Mr. Right.
Crocodile Gennadiy, directed and written by Steve Hoover. (USA)– World Premiere, Documentary. Crocodile Gennadiy, a real-life, self-appointed savior, who works tirelessly to rescue homeless, drug-addicted youth from the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. At the same time, he challenges dealers and abusers. Despite criticism, Gennadiy is determined to continue his work. Sundance Award-winning director Steve Hoover’s second feature is a bold portrait of a man on a mission. In English, Russian with subtitles.
Cronies, directed and written by Michael Larnell. (USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Louis begins to question his lifelong friendship with Jack, after a simple errand to buy his daughter a birthday gift turns into a visit to a drug dealer. Director Michael Larnell combines an earnestly realistic narrative with documentary-style interviews in which the characters muse on their futures, their impact on those they love, and the nature of friendship.
dream/killer, directed by Andrew Jenks. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the fall of 2005, 20-year-old Ryan Ferguson received a 40-year prison sentence for a murder that he did not commit. Over the next ten years, his father Bill engages in a tireless crusade to prove Ryan’s innocence. Interspersed with footage from the Ferguson family archive, Andrew Jenks’ film looks at the personal consequences of a wrongful conviction.
El Cinco (El 5 de Talleres), directed and written by Adrián Biniez. (Argentina) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Patón, with his fiery temper and aggressive play, is the veteran star of his city’s soccer team. When his transgressions land him a lengthy suspension, he considers retirement, while discovering a world that consists of more than just feet and fists. This coming-of-middle-age tale reveals the predicament of leaving the arena where you most feel at home. In Spanish with subtitles.
GORED, directed and written by Ido Mizrahy, co-written by Geoffrey Gray. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Gored centers on Spanish bullfighter Antonio Barrera, holder of the dubious title of “Most Gored Bullfighter in History,” as he grapples with the end of his career. Captivating footage of past and present bullfights reveal Barrera’s tremendous passion for the sport, as well as his seemingly irresistible urge to confront death at every opportunity. In Spanish with subtitles.
Jackrabbit, directed and written by Carleton Ranney, co-written by Destin Douglas. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. When a friend’s suicide leaves behind a mysterious computer drive, a fringe hacker and accomplished computer technician come together to decipher the message left in his wake. First-time filmmaker Carleton Ranney effortlessly combines a low-fi aesthetic with an intensely ambitious sci-fi story, creating a work that manages to satisfy as both a retro throwback and a forward-thinking indie drama.
King Jack, directed and written by Felix Thompson. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Growing up in a rural town filled with violent delinquents, Jack has learned to do what it takes to survive, despite having an oblivious mother and no father. After his aunt falls ill and a younger cousin comes to stay with him, the hardened 15-year-old discovers the importance of friendship, family, and looking for happiness even in the most desolate of circumstances.
Lucifer, directed and written by Gust Van den Berghe. (Belgium, Mexico) – United States Premiere, Narrative. An angel falling from heaven to hell unexpectedly lands in a Mexican village where his presence affects the villagers in surprising ways. Inspired by the biblical story, Lucifer is a mesmerizing, moving, and unique exercise in form, presented in the director’s own format, Tondoscope. In Spanish with subtitles.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, directed and written by Jeanie Finlay. (UK) – World Premiere, Documentary. Millions of Americans clung to the hope that Elvis Presley faked his death. For the executives at Sun Records that fantasy became an opportunity in the form of Orion, a mysterious masked performer with the voice of The King. But who was the man behind the mask? In this stranger-than-fiction true story, Jeanie Finlay explores a life led in service to those who couldn’t let Elvis go.
Shut Up and Drive, directed and written by Melanie Shaw. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Uptight and insecure Jane breaks down when her live-in boyfriend must move from Los Angeles to New Orleans for an acting gig. Jane’s anxiety worsens upon the arrival of Laura, Austin’s wild childhood friend. Unable to deal with each other without Austin, the two women embark on a road trip to see him, forming an unexpected friendship along the way.
Slow Learners, co-directed by Sheena Joyce and Don Argott, written by Matt Serword. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. High school teachers Jeff and Anne (Adam Pally and Sarah Burns) are work BFFs all too familiar with the woes of romance. Desperate to turn their luck around they take on new personas and embark, with gusto, on an adventurous summer of uncharacteristic encounters. Slow Learners is a charming, comedic crash course in discovering who you really are.
Stranded in Canton (Nakangami na Guangzhou), directed by Måns Månsson, co-written by Måns Månsson, Li Hongqi, and George Cragg. (Sweden, Denmark, China)– North American Premiere, Narrative. Lebrun is an entrepreneur from The Democratic Republic of Congo who goes to China intent on making a fortune selling political T-shirts. When things don’t go as planned Lebrun spends more time in karaoke bars and falling in love than he does on business. Somewhere between documentary and fiction, this fascinating story explores new trade routes and their impact in two separate continents. In Cantonese, English, French, Lingala, Mandarin with subtitles.
Sunrise (Arunoday), directed and written by Partho Sen-Gupta. (India, France) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Social Service officer Lakshman Joshi is led on a chase through the dark gutters and rain-soaked back alleys of Mumbai by a shadowy figure. His pursuit leads him to Paradise, a seedy nightclub seemingly at the center of the kidnapping ring he is investigating. Joshi’s hunt brings back memories of his own kidnapped daughter, as his past and current reality converge. In Marathi with subtitles.
Tenured, directed and written by Christopher Modoono, co-written by Gil Zabarsky. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In Chris Modoono’s hilarious directorial debut, a broody and foul-mouthed elementary school teacher, Ethan Collins, finds his life turned upside down when his wife leaves him. Stuck with a group of precocious fifth graders, and fraught with fizzling writing aspirations, Ethan uses the school play as a last-ditch effort to fix his marriage. Will this be his greatest accomplishment or his most misguided lesson to date?
(T)ERROR, directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. A rare, insider’s view of an FBI undercover investigation in progress, (T)ERROR follows a 63-year-old informant in his attempt to befriend a suspected Taliban sympathizer, and build a fraudulent case against him. Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s startling and timely exposé questions the sacrifices that are being made to prevent terror in the United States.
Toto and His Sisters (Toto Si Surorile Lui), directed and written by Alexander Nanau. (Romania) – North American Premiere, Documentary. Shot over a period of 15 months, this hands-off documentary follows siblings living in a Bucharest slum. With their mother in jail, Toto and his two sisters, Ana and Andreea, live in what appears to be a communal drug den. As Ana drifts away with frequent drug use, Toto and Andreea must stick together in an orphanage, awaiting their mother’s return. In Romanian with subtitles.
TransFatty Lives, directed by Patrick O’Brien, co-written by Patrick O’Brien, Scott Crowningshield, Lasse Jarvi, Doug Pray. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Director Patrick O’Brien is TransFatty, the onetime NYC deejay and Internet meme-making superstar. In 2005, O’Brien began to document his life after being diagnosed with ALS and given only two to five years to live. TransFatty Lives is a brazen and illustrative account of what it’s like to live when you find out you are going to die.
Uncertain, co-directed and co-written by Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. An aquatic weed threatens the lake of the small American border town of Uncertain, Texas, and consequently the livelihoods of those who live there. As some of the men in town attempt to figure out their future, they confront a past that haunts them.
We Are Young. We Are Strong. (Wir Sind Jung. Wir Sind Stark.), directed by Burhan Qurbani, co-written by Martin Behnke and Burhan Qurbani. (Germany) – North American Premiere, Narrative. A group of disillusioned teenagers wander about in the restless hours leading up to an anti-immigrant riot that took place in Rostock, Germany, in August of 1992. The impending incident is seen through the experiences of three individuals: a Vietnamese factory worker, a local politician, and the politician’s teenage son, Stefan. In German, Vietnamese with subtitles.
The Wolfpack, directed by Crystal Moselle. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. Everything the Angulo brothers know about the outside world they learned from obsessively watching movies. Shut away from bustling New York City by their overprotective father, they cope with their isolation by diligently re-enacting their favorite films. When one of the brothers escapes, the world as they know it will be transformed. A Magnolia Release.
In addition to the films announced today, the Festival will present feature-length films in the Spotlight, Midnight, and Special Sections, which will be announced on March 5, 2015.