Friday, April 30, 2010


My first Tribeca Film Festival was in 2006, the fifth year and normally I allot a film festival this amount of time to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. There were already over a thousand submissions and emphasis was placed on Hollywood style premieres, celebs and red carpets. I hated being corralled in with the jostling elbows along that heinous red carpet because that's not what I was about as a writer and podcast producer. The "press" was lumped into one writhing pit of despair and the "Franklin Pass" was getting me nowhere.

Tribeca Film Festival quickly outgrew the Tribeca Cinemas and got very big, very fast at that time with growing pains along the way. After unintentionally alienating the independent media, changes were made to accommodate those solely interested in the indie films and filmmakers who worked their tails off getting films completed and submitted. Since then, the festival found a happy medium by creating two theaters, (Cinema Village East and Chelsea Clearview Cinemas) along with the School of Visual Arts theater, devoted to film reviewers as well as the general public. This effectively has turned one aspect of Tribeca Film Festival into a desired "people's film festival".

People come to the morning screenings, mingling locals and out-of-towners waiting on rush lines. Conversations about films already seen and ones read about can be heard throughout the crowd swelling out into the street after a screening and towards the next theater, walking distance away. This is the real deal and film festival feel especially for indie diehards. It's not unusual to see the likes of Michael Moore looking for a seat at an afternoon screening of PLEASE, GIVE or Kiefer Sutherland in a row of rocking drummers and air guitarists in the RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE screening (also the only time in a theater where I witnessed a line outside the men's restroom). This is the pulse for a film festival, so it surprised me when the Tribeca Virtual festival was started apparently for those who can't make the screenings, but in effect it's a trendy gimmick growing more couch potatoes. Getting out for the anticipation-heightened crowd buzzing about their film experiences is the best.

In 2006, Tristan Bauer's ILUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO (BLESSED BY FIRE), a riveting account of a veteran from Argentina's disastrous Falklands War won the Best Narrative Award and WAR TAPES, digitized images taken by U.S. National Guards in Iraq directed by Deborah Scranton, won Best Documentary. The Audience Award went to CATS OF MIRIKITANI directed by Linda Hattendorf. Stories like these continue to come out and programmed into the festival lineup. While production value is visibly important like a calculated bodysculpt, good stories and storytelling remain the heart and soul no matter what the budget allows. This 2010 Tribeca Film Festival attests to what it takes as several good indie films and filmmakers shine through at the award announcements.

The first film I saw that took my breath away, WHEN WE LEAVE, written and directed by Feo Aladag, won the Best Feature in the World Competition category (film review on Eye On Indies at and Sibel Kekilli won Best Actress for her performance as an abused wife confronted by strict social and cultural rules. Another great film I saw, BUDRUS, directed by Julia Bacha, a story of a nonviolent demonstration movement worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize won a Special Jury Mention. After briefly meeting Clio Barnard at the "Meet and Greet" for documentary filmmakers, I made a point to see THE ARBOR and was impressed by the interpretation in storytelling. While not the first of its kind, it's innovative and effective and Barnard won Best New Documentary Filmmaker.

Short films are always an audience favorite because it is can be so eclectic and quick to the point. There were quite a number with weak stories and mediocre storytelling efforts; however, production values remained high so I suppose that's what got them in. The ones I liked excelled in these categories and my favorite grouping was "Wishful Thinking" which included A BORDER STORY (Tobias Louie), DELILAH BEFORE (Melanie Schiele), THE POOL (Thomas Hefferon), EDGAR (Fabian Busch), EPIC FAIL (Ragnar Agnarsson), CRIED SUICIDE (Lauren Palmigiano), THE WAKE (Gemma Lee), THE DINNER PARTY (Peter Glanz). My favorite short film, THE CRUSH, written and directed by Michael Creagh, follows a six year old with a ten year plan to marry his teacher Miss Purdy as he confronts her undeserving fiance. A Special Jury Mention for this filmmaker's debut short film. Well done.

Finally, I still have to see AMERICAN MYSTICS this evening and will cap it off with a second viewing of RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE for a midnight screening. I'm sure the entire theater will be rocking by the end of an extraordinary 106 minutes and I'll put my money on this film to win the Audience Award. I can't help but love the film festival experience LIVE in New York. It's the only way to fly.

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