Film Festivals

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2006

By • May 7th, 2006 •

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As stated in the festival’s website “In 2002, the Tribeca Film Institute successfully launched the First Annual Tribeca Film Festival. Created by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro, the mission of the Tribeca Film Festival is to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience. The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.”

It was a great festival. From what I have seen, heard and read almost all the films were worth seeing. This year TFF added more venues giving more films a chance to be in this great festival, perhaps they had to since they had more entries than ever. At the end of a shorts program the director for said program explained that about 3600 shorts were sent in; she watched about 2200 herself, and the remainder was her associates’ share. The festival had venues booked all over Manhattan to be able to handle this huge event. Also, in general, the festival seemed more organized this year.

I attended several screenings and panels. The first film I saw was THE PLAY by the Turkish Director Pelin Esmer who won the “Best New Documentary Filmmaker” award in the festival. It definitely deserved the award regarding the unusual content and the message of the film. A short called I’M CHARLIE CHAPLIN, which featured a little kid being dressed as Charlie Chaplin and going around in NYC in Halloween time to get candy by insisting that she is Charlie Chaplin, preceded THE PLAY. It was simple, cute and funny.

Still from THE PLAY, directed by Pelin Esmer

On the same day, I saw a program of short films called “Private Property”. Some of the filmmakers were present for the Q&A after the screening. The first one in the program was INTERVIEW by Boyoung Lee, which features a job interview. It was an okay film but nothing really “WOW”. Second up was JANE LLOYD by HAPPY (yes, that’s his/her name). This was a great short. The editing was very effective since there was no dialogue, and with bad editing it would have been a disaster. That wasn’t the case here, the short was interesting and captivating. Third was WOMEN WORKERS LEAVING THE FACTORY by José Luis Torres. This short was good because of its visuals but didn’t really have much substance, especially towards the end, which felt like Michael Haneke’s CACHE – in other words, there is no end, the director is telling us “this was a fragment of these people’s lives”. Although an interesting concept; I must say that I felt like I was being held prisoner, I couldn’t wait for the film to finish. The fourth film was SPANISH BOOTS by Domenica Cameron-Scorsese. Well, as an idea perhaps it’s interesting (this is me trying to soften the effect of the upcoming sentence). Other than that, it was a joke, overly dramatic and highly unrealistic (more than a film is supposed to be) as relates to story line and acting. Fifth was SHELTER by Luke Hutton. This was definitely a good short, perhaps the best I have seen recently. Hutton shot it as his thesis project for USC. If he makes the right choices in his directing career over the next few years, we will hear his name with great films. Sixth film was DILEMMA by Boris Paval Conen, a Dutch production. In this film, you can definitely see the signs of it being European from the way it’s shot to what it is concerned about. The outcome of the film sends a message, which is actually very strong “While trying to help other people, don’t forget about yourself”. Seventh was DEAD END JOB by Samantha Davidson Green. I guess, when you hear the title, and hear that it is about an obituary writer, yes, it’s funny. However, that’s about it, it’s funny once. It’s like a joke you would tell someone and say “You should’ve seen it, it was really funny”. I should mention that it got the “Student Visionary Award”, perhaps because of its Hollywood-like shooting technique. However, technique doesn’t convince me of a film’s worth.

Still from KISS ME AGAIN, directed by William Tyler Smith

Couple of days later, I saw a film called KISS ME AGAIN which was directed by William Tyler Smith and written by Smith and Julian Hoxter. The film, set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, could probably relate to the younger hipster crowd – where “hipster” could mean many things. In the film, the main characters choose their hip activities in a somewhat expected fashion, however they stick with their choices unexpectedly too long, which causes one of the main characters – Chalice, played by beautiful Katheryn Winnick – to gain all control of the two love triangles she is in. In this sense, the film is very life-like regarding how sometimes it’s hard to deal with difficult people unless you are willing to go their way, and the film ends with all the characters going Chalice’s way. The director and the producer were present for a Q&A session after the screening. One of the audience members asked the director if the story had any background in reality. Smith replied, “I am refusing to answer it”. Perhaps that meant, “Yes, it does, but I won’t give you the opportunity to pry around more”. I think it probably does have some background in the director’s life, though in the writing process the story may have been fantasized in the direction that the writers wanted it to end.

Still from WAR TAPES, directed by Deborah Scranton

The next film I saw was THE WAR TAPES which won the “Best Documentary Feature” award in the festival, and it deserves it for its unbiased view. The idea behind the film is great. The production company was contacted by the US Army’s public relations department and was asked if it would be possible to loan their soldiers cameras so they could record their experience in Iraq. 12 soldiers were given cameras and three of the soldiers’ footage were chosen to be in the film. In the Q&A session after the film, the editor explained that they had a total of 4000 hours of footage that they had to sift through. The filmmakers didn’t worry about being politically correct. In the film and in the Q&A the soldiers who shot the footage talked about their feelings about the war and this fired up some people, so there were people yelling at the screen or at the soldiers present. I should mention that the person I was sitting by of course had to be the person yelling at them to shut up at maximum volume. Towards the end of the Q&A session, the police were watching audience for troublemakers.

The next program I saw was called “Animated NY” which featured a high number of short animation films, all produced in NY. The highlight was the premier of Bill Plympton’s GUARD DOG. The compilation featured some animated shorts that have been around for a while, as well as some recent ones.

John Malkovich at the press conference after the screening of COLOUR ME KUBRIK

There were also some press screenings I attended. One of them was COLOUR ME KUBRICK, where John Malkovich plays a Stanley Kubrick impostor during the time Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT was being produced. The screening was followed by a press conference where Malkovich and producer Michael Fitzgerald were present. Most of the questions they were on the order of “Was this certain thing a conscious decision?” Malkovich and Fitzgerald kept mentioning costume designer Vicki Russell, and confessed that she had a hand in it. In some cases, it appears that Russell’s costume designs played a huge role in the film’s development. Needless to say, Malkovich was very good, especially convincing with the impostor’s every possible gesture or accent.

The last film I saw was the FLOCK OF DODOS: THE EVOLUTION-INTELLIGENT DESIGN CIRCUS, which was preceded by GARDEN OF EDEN REVISITED. The short before the film was actually better. The FLOCK OF DODOS was a Flock of Doodoos. Why? It tried to cover subjects that are very difficult to grasp in two hours, especially when the audience comes to the theater with a relaxed mindset, not really ready to think and process deep ideas. The professors or scientists it featured were cut off too quickly, and instead of them there were “cute” little dodo bird cartoon characters on the screen for extensive periods of time. The film was too short and lacked substance. Perhaps, it could make an interesting documentary series (without the dodo-theme) which could extend as far as ten one-hour episodes. Even twenty hours of a documentary series with a subject this vast would be hard-pressed to succeed.

Downloading at a Screen Near You panel. From left to right... Georg Szalai, Steven Soderbergh, Ashwin Navin, Todd Wagner and Dean Garfield.

Other than the screenings, I attended two panels. The first was “Professional Amateurs: Mocking the Truth”. It was moderated by Jim Kelly (Managing Editor, TIME). Panelists were Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap), Lewis Lapham (Harper’s Magazine), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly), Bob Balaban (A Mighty Wind), and Ed Helms (The Daily Show). The panel members talked about how “mockumentaries” effect our lives and considered how seriously should we take them. It was an interesting panel, especially Goldblum’s display of his signature body language that captured the audience’s attention. The second panel was “Downloading at a Screen Near You”. It was moderated by Georg Szalai (Hollywood Reporter). Panelists were Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies and Videotape, Ocean’s 11), Todd Wagner (2929 Entertainment), Ashwin Navin (BitTorrent) and Dean Garfield (MPAA Representative). Panelists discussed how simultaneous releases of films in the film theaters, DVD, TV and Internet will affect the film industry. Interestingly there wasn’t a fistfight at the end like most of the audience expected.

Another note; in one of the days, coming back from the festival, I went into Tribeca Tavern. In there, I met the producer (Nikki Parrott) and the director (Ben Hopkins) of the movie called 37 Uses for a Dead Sheep; I didn’t see the movie but it was very interesting to meet them. They said the movie was in festivals all around the world. They were in Toronto International Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Istanbul International Film Festival and some other festivals in Europe. The most interesting part of my conversation with them was that they were very interested in other cultures. Especially, the director, who is originally English, learned Turkish to be able shoot this movie in Eastern Turkey and Kyrgyzstan (they speak a dialect of Turkish) and he was teaching a local guy who was sitting with him in the bar about Turkey. After that he showed his money collection to him which he got from every country he has been. The producer told me that they will shoot other movies relating to Turkey and Turkic Republics.

Well, do you feel bad that you missed the festival? Most of the films that were in the festival got distribution, so you’ll be seeing them soon in the theaters (or who knows, on the internet perhaps).

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