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Previewing Tribeca 2012

New York critics pick their first round of highlights.
The DailyTribeca 2012

This year's Tribeca Film Festival (site) opens on Wednesday with the world premiere of The Five-Year Engagement, which, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is directed by Nicholas Stoller, produced by Judd Apatow and stars Jason Segel, and closes on April 28 with Joss Whedon's The Avengers. In the New York Times, Stephen Holden notes that the new programming team (Frédéric Boyer, former artistic director of the Directors' Fortnight, Sundance vet Geoffrey Gilmore and Genna Terranova) have slimmed the lineup down to 90 features from 150 just two years ago: "As a result Tribeca is no longer a catchall basin for middling stray films seeking a showcase." What's more, "for the first time [the] world narrative and world documentary competitions have official opening-night films":

The opening narrative feature, Eytan Fox's Yossi, is the sequel to his gay love story, Yossi and Jagger, for which the Israeli actor Ohad Knoller won a best actor award at Tribeca in 2003. Then he played the more cautious of two soldiers carrying on a secret affair. In the new movie, set a decade later, Yossi (again Mr Knoller) is now a closeted Tel Aviv heart surgeon whose lonely existence is uprooted when the mother of his lover, who died in combat, shows up at his hospital. Superb acting offsets most of the sentimentality in this story of a depressed man reawakened by the possibility of a new love.

The riveting documentary opening feature, Nisha Pahuja's World Before Her, explores the collision of two cultures in India. The women's wing of the Hindu fundamentalist movement, which rejects Western culture and female emancipation, operates training camps for female warriors. At the opposite extreme is the Miss India pageant, a beauty contest whose winner will compete for Miss World. Far from exalting one choice over another, the film portrays both as straitjackets for women in a country that devalues them.


David D'Arcy, who writes about documentaries for Artinfo, has co-written (with director Andrew Shea) and co-produced (with Barbara Morgan) Portrait of Wally (site), "a Holocaust art theft documentary that plays like a serpentine thriller," as Graham Fuller puts it at, well, Artinfo. Portrait "traces the torturous journey of Egon Schiele's candid 1912 expressionist portrait of his red-headed, blue-eyed girlfriend, Walburga Neuzil." The film's tagline? "The face that launched a thousand lawsuits." Few would claim that there's a happy ending to this story, but the case "has facilitated the increased restitution of works that the Nazis stole from Jewish families during the Holocaust and which had landed in European and American museums."

IndieWIRE has spoken with over 25 filmmakers who've got work screening at the festival and the Playlist previews its "15 Most Anticipated Films."

Time Out New York previews its top ten picks. Let's have one from each of its critics:

  • Joshua Rothkopf on Let Fury Have the Hour: "A thrillingly articulate wallop of 80s-era rage, Antonino D'Ambrosio's color-tinted political collage is about a crucial subject made visual: the ideological shift away from social responsibility and toward free-market individualism. It's a moment identified with Reagan and Thatcher — here is all that striking-miner footage you wished had been in The Iron Lady — but the documentary also includes some choice new interviews: Chuck D, John Sayles, Eve Ensler, Billy Bragg and more."

  • Keith Uhlich on Side by Side: "Christopher Kenneally's probing doc about the movie industry's changeover from film to digital uses an impressive roster of talking heads — Vittorio Storaro, George Lucas, Davids Lynch and Fincher — and up-to-the-minute examples to examine the epochal technical shift cinema is undergoing."

  • David Fear on Sleepless Night: "Frédéric Jardin's curve-hugging cop thriller breathes new life into that old saw about a dirty police officer (Tomer Sisley), a kidnapped son and a bag of missing narcotics, but it also carefully constructs the kind of white-knuckle ride that we used to look to American potboilers for. Trust us, the knock-down, drag-out fight in a nightclub kitchen alone makes this Gallic crime flick essential viewing for genre fiends." Alt Screen posts a roundup.

As Noel Murray notes in the Los Angeles Times, Sleepless Night is one of three films Tribeca will be making available as VOD titles starting tomorrow (a fourth, Raymond De Felitta's Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story, will be available on April 26). The other two: Ian Fitzgibbon's Death of a Superhero, "a melancholy coming-of-age drama about a teenage cancer patient (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who is just coming to terms with his own mortality when he falls in love with a rebellious classmate (Aisling Loftus)," and Lee Kirk's The Giant Mechanical Man, "a low-key romantic comedy starring Chris Messina as a starving artist who connects with a directionless sad sack (Jenna Fischer)."

Elizabeth Weitzman previews her highlights in the New York Daily News.

Viewing (2'15"). Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Labrecque has a preview of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall's short Picture Paris.

I'll be posting another Tribeca roundup later on this week.

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